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The major news media is awash in pundits and "experts" who have argued every conceivable angle of the Ford/Mulally CEO switcheroo. Most seem to have little to substantiate their opinions, while others just seem to enjoy some seat time under the newsroom lighting. Thankfully, more sources are available beyond the realm of "traditional media" and Peter M. DeLorenzo decided the best way to address the future of Ford was to write an open letter to its newest helmsman.

We're only two days into this, and even we are getting tired of the speculation and conjecture, but DeLorenzo's take is easy to digest. By breaking down what issues need addressing and how Mulally should go about setting up shop (practically telling him the proper placement of his letter opener), the Autoextremist's focus is set squarely on the near future.

The daunting task is to begin with Mulally dumping the "amicable boss routine" and jump in with tempered ruthlessness. A benevolent dictatorship may not be the most P.C. operation, but it gets things done and done right. After that it's all about product. Revive Lincoln to its former glory (please!), unleash the pent-up talent laying at your disposal, bring Ford back to the main stage by getting your hands dirty in motorsport at a level that rivals the company's achievements in the 60's. Kick ass, take names and bring the pain.

We want it. The public wants it. And the U.S.needs it.

BTW, for a counter to DeLorenzo's assertion that the aerospace and automotive biz are mutually exclusive entities, check out Jalopnik's retort.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 9 Comments
      • 9 Years Ago
      Kudos to Peter M. DeLorenzo. I couldn't agree more with that letter. It is everything in a nutshell.

      It represents the desires of the working level employees and customers.
      • 9 Years Ago
      'unleash the pent-up talent laying at your disposal, bring Ford back to the main stage'

      Oh, and bring some of those Europeon offerings to North America. Ford would not be where they are today if they had given us some of the Europeon models. This was a leadership decision and we'll see if the new guy get's it.
      • 9 Years Ago
      The Jalopnik counter is right on the money. Particularly for product development, aerospace and auto share the same timeline (3-4 years), processes (e.g., CATIA), architecture (modular, with ~70%+ of the product outsourced to suppliers), and to an extent, costs (multibillion) and "bet your company" product launches. The difference is that under the same constraints aerospace has to design and engineer a product with ~2 orders of magnitude more parts (~1 million v. 10k) and essentially failure proof.

      Moreover, he brings experience that Ford desperately needs: completely transforming the design, engineering, and product architecture to completely change the nature of competition in an industry. The 787 about to be launched is a complete move to composites from aluminum, which required basically a complete change of all PD, engineering, and manufacturing processes. He's basically led the first revolution in how planes are made since the jet engine in the 50s. He's doing this under cost and budget so far.

      This bodes well if Ford decides to become more agressive with implementing new powertrains (hybrids, diesels) or even move to a new material system (aluminum, composites).

      Also agreed is that the competition b/t Airbus and Boeing is at least as competitive than the Toyota/GM/Honda competition in NA.

      What Mulaly does not have experience with is high volume sales and marketing and a complicated delaer network. Moving from a few dozen customers to a few million is pretty radical. That may be his biggest challenge.
      • 9 Years Ago
      Am I missing something? I see very little practical content in this editorial. Much of it is the typical enthusiast wish list, including the desire for some macho dictator to come in and make a bunch of firm snap decisions.

      The bit about unleashing talent is closest to the mark. But this is nowhere near as simple as many people (including Peter) seem to think it is. First, not everyone's ideas are good ideas. Second, even when ideas are good, they need to be balanced against conflicting good ideas in other areas. Including the "good idea" of keeping costs under control.

      Ultimately, what Ford needs is an excellent senior manager, and that could be why Bill Ford picked this guy. At least I hope that's the reason. Managing a company like Boeing requires good management skills. People there seem to love this guy, and to have achieved some good things under his watch (though it's always hard to tell from the outside what is real and what is PR).

      To properly unleash talent, you need to do a few things, none of them easy:
      1. Figure out what specific talents are needed
      2. Find out who has them (takes time and direct contact)
      3. Structure and manage teams of these people properly, so team members can know and respect each other's talents, and combine these talents to create great products.
      4. Let these teams do their jobs

      At Ford (and many other large companies), this approach has always fallen victim to corporate politics and the by-products of the fast track system.

      If Mulally is going to succeed, he needs to kill the destructive corporate politics that have cursed Ford pretty much forever, not add to it. People on the product development teams cannot do their jobs if they're constantly being interfered with by senior executives jostling for position.

      Exec summary of a report I prepared for GM a few years back, somewhat along these lines:
      http://www.truedelta.com/execsum.php
      • 9 Years Ago
      My solution to Ford:

      1. Create a halo car for Lincoln. That awesome concept from a few years back would do nicely.

      2. Bring over your Euro/Aussie cars DAMNIT!!! Maybe make that your Mercury lineup. Otherwise dump it and just bring 'em over as Fords.

      There, most of your problems are solved.

      • 9 Years Ago
      The point about Lincoln is so very true. They've let the brand deteriorate into 'boring' and 'me-too' cars that have nothing to do with Lincoln's heritage. Where are the luxurious boats with 460 V8s roaming the highways?
      • 9 Years Ago
      Ford has made a substantial committment to the Russian Federation. So has Boeing.
      • 9 Years Ago
      This time the AutoExtremist has his head up the tailpipe.

      Ford made two critical mistakes that GM has avoided (yes, GM is pulling out of the woods):

      1. They didn't adopt a cost cutting (plant closings, layoffs, reduction in pension and health care coses) policy early enough or aggressive enough. They ignored the handwriting on the wall.

      2. To try to save money other than by cost cutting the smart way, they delayed new product. Now their product is pretty stale and/or ugly (think: Focus, Five Hundred; for that matter, they hardly got the Fusion out as quickly as they needed to).

      Mark Fields is the only bright light at Ford. He doesn't have a great eye for design, but at least he knows the product/refresh cycle needs to be speeded up.

      Here are my suggestions, as a consumer who has considered the cars in question:

      A. Get the Focus restyle out before next summer, as an early '08. Use only the 2.3 variable valve timing variant (160 hp or so in the Mazda3) in the hatchbacks to recapture some of the youth market. Make a "tall wagon" variant instead of the station wagon (think modern Ractis or Touran, NOT the HHR or PT).

      B. Drop the 3.0 in the Five Hundred. Drop the crappy CVT from a no-name supplier. Use only the new 3.5 and the new 6 speed. Make this look more agressive; I'm not sure if the "Fusion grill" is the trick, but it's a start.

      C. Offer three engines in the Fusion - the 2.3 four in the S, the 3.0 in the SE, and the 3.5 in the SES. ALL with 6 speed auto. Make those badges mean something besides leather seats!

      D. Bring the Fairlane to market. Drop the Freestar. Wait, they are doing that...YAY.

      E. Fire the designer who created the Freestar/Freestyle confusion.

      F. Make the Five Hundred and Freestyle work. They are your best cars. The Fusion tends to self destruct in crash tests, an embarassment given the extensive "work over" Ford did to minutely change its dimensions from the Mazda6, which has the same crash test issues.
      • 9 Years Ago
      I think the Ford Motor Company has spent more than enough time wallowing on the Planet Doom and Gloom - as a matter of fact, it's in danger of establishing permanent residence there. And you must change that immediately.