2007年8月22日 星期三

務實: Ford Stays the Course, Wherever It May Lead



Ford Stays the Course, Wherever It May Lead

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Jaguar and Land Rover are two of the three luxury brands Ford’s chief, Alan R. Mulally, has put up for sale as part of restructuring.

Published: August 22, 2007

DEARBORN, Mich., Aug. 21 — What has changed in the year since Alan R. Mulally left Boeing to be chief executive at Ford Motor?

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Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times

As Mulally makes changes at Ford, he is staying with the reorganization plan that preceded him.

In a sense, everything and nothing.

Since his appointment last September made him the first outsider in recent memory named to run a Detroit auto company, Mr. Mulally has brought discipline to a company known for rivalries and infighting. 它說Ford是家勇於內鬥的公司

An admirer of the development team that created the Taurus sedan, he revived the nameplate, most recently relegated to a rental car. He mortgaged virtually all of Ford’s assets to amass the billions of dollars the company needs for its restructuring, and he has put up for sale Ford’s British luxury nameplates: Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin. 這Taurus是80年代的明星 不過後來給Ford自己把這品牌砸碎 不過現在雖"復名" (曾宣佈停產) 卻淪為出租車業用

Despite that, Mr. Mulally, who turned 62 this month, has not dispelled concerns about the future of Ford, which Toyota passed this year for second place in the American market.

“Ford’s turnaround is still in its infancy,” said Shelly Lombard, a senior analyst at Gimme Credit, which follows corporate bond markets.

Indeed, around Detroit and on Wall Street, one question is often raised about Mr. Mulally: When is he going to turn up the heat?

It is a legitimate question in a city known for corporate drama, especially at Ford, which spawned — and spurned — dynamic executives like Lee A. Iacocca and Jacques A. Nasser. Each ran the company like his own personal kingdom, and each was ousted.

“There’s little on the surface that says they’ve turned 180 degrees,” said Ed Hellwig, the editor of Inside Line, an online magazine published by the consumer advice company Edmunds.

To some experts, that is worrisome because this year, with gasoline at $3 a gallon in parts of the country and a housing slump putting pressure on vehicle sales, auto companies are predicting the weakest industry sales since 1998. And Ford, which earned a surprise profit of $750 million during the second quarter, expects the rest of this year to be difficult.

Yet Mr. Mulally said in an interview Tuesday that he would stick with the restructuring program that was in place when he arrived nearly a year ago. “I believe we have a really good plan,” he said, adding that his goal is to return Ford’s North American operations to profitability by 2009.

He is also sticking with the managers already here. Unlike some chief executives, who arrive with trusted lieutenants, Mr. Mulally has recruited just one Boeing official as a consultant.

Instead, he reorganized duties and promoted two Ford executives: Derrick M. Kuzak, who is in charge of global product development, and Susan M. Cischke, the senior vice president for sustainability, environment and safety engineering, who became the industry’s first executive to have the word “sustainability” in her job title. 職稱名究竟能真正改變什麼嗎?

Mr. Mulally’s biggest change, executives at the company say, has been to push Ford’s leaders to look at competition across the industry, not just across town at General Motors or Chrysler.

His model is Toyota, known much less for executive personalities than for its conservative lineup of vehicles focused on high quality and its regimented approach to manufacturing.

它說Toyota以車系和生產紀律嚴明著稱 而不像Ford的暴君型老闆
Show phonetics
too organized and controlled:
a regimented school/society/lifestyle

Mr. Mulally raised eyebrows last December when he flew to Japan to call on Toyota’s chairman, Fujio Cho. The trip telegraphed Mr. Mulally’s regard for the Japanese carmaker, whose production system he emulated at Boeing when he developed the 777 jet.

“I look at Toyota, and I have never seen such consistency of purpose,” Mr. Mulally said. Referring to an industry adage, “sell the sizzle and not the steak,” he went on, “you don’t hear anything about the sizzle.”

consistency of purpose 是20幾年前Deming教 Ford的--是40幾年前Deming教 Toyota的--他們務實

But Ford, analysts say, could badly use some. The automaker, which held 16 percent of the American market upon Mr. Mulally’s arrival last year, had just 13.7 percent in July, according to statistics from Autodata, a firm that tracks industry statistics.

Although the Edge crossover vehicle started well last year, Ford is still plagued by the slump in sales of profitable big vehicles like the Explorer sport utility and the F-series pickup. Mr. Mulally says sales are now divided equally between cars and light trucks.

Analysts say it will be 2011 before Ford completes a top-to-bottom makeover of its lineup, drawing from the vehicles it builds around the world, like the C-Max crossover in Europe, based on the European Focus. Ford will introduce yet another crossover, the Flex, next year. A crossover is a sport utility vehicle built on a car chassis.

“There is very clearly now a priority around leveraging the products we have globally,” Mr. Kuzak said this week.

Its global cars will help Ford fill out an American lineup that lacks a small car to compete with gas-sipping models like the Toyota Yaris, the Honda Fit and the Chevrolet Aveo, although Mr. Mulally says one is coming.

Mr. Mulally says he is not concerned about the sales decline, much of it a result of cutting back on sales to rental companies. Ford signaled the decline last year, when it announced it was cutting more than 30,000 jobs by 2012 and closing more than a dozen factories.

“This is not only what we expected, this is the plan,” Mr. Mulally said.

Indeed, Mr. Mulally, in his carefully worded answers, seems to exude only optimism about his company.

And little wonder: he earned $28 million in his first four months on the job last year, including a $7.5 million signing bonus and $11 million paid by Ford to offset benefits he lost when he left Boeing. Mr. Mulally’s base salary is $2 million a year, and he has received stock grants and options. His predecessor, William Clay Ford Jr., did not accept a salary last year, although he received $10.5 million in stock awards.

What has Mr. Mulally’s pay bought Ford? An executive who reads and promptly answers (or forwards) every e-mail message, sends notes of praise and has spent a year immersing himself in the automobile industry.

Ms. Cischke said she had spent hours tutoring Mr. Mulally about the nuts and bolts of corporate average fuel economy, an issue in the spotlight this summer in Washington. Mr. Kuzak, for his part, said Mr. Mulally quickly grasped the need to update the company’s lineup.

“Alan is a very quick learner,” Mr. Kuzak said. “You wouldn’t be in the position Alan is in if you weren’t.”

Thursday has become the day top executives meet with Mr. Mulally each week to review the company’s business plan. Such meetings used to happen irregularly, and the business plan was an amorphous document amended to reflect shifts in the marketplace — a forecast as much as a plan, Mr. Kuzak said. Executives spent as much time explaining why they were off target as they did outlining goals.

Now, the business plan is set, and instead of making executives defend shortfalls, Mr. Mulally asks other managers to offer ideas and help. “The expectation is that outside the meeting, you will work on corrective measures to get back on plan,” Mr. Kuzak said.

Ms. Cischke said Mr. Mulally began at a disadvantage, given his outsider status.

But Ford’s new approach, she said, “ends up being a real testimony to his leadership style and skill to take people who are real knowledgeable about the business and get us to work the way we would like to work.”

Like the executives he emulates at Toyota, Mr. Mulally sees his challenge as a long-term one. Once he pushes the company up the slope to North American profitability, his goal is to make sure that it will “be profitable forever,” he said.

Nick Bunkley contributed reporting.