At a private dinner on Wednesday, Ford CEO Alan Mulally told journalists that the recent visit he and Mark Fields made to Toyota's headquarters was born out of a desire to understand more about the Japanese automaker's manufacturing and product development processes, which Mulally holds in very high esteem.
He went so far as to refer to Toyota as "the finest machine in the world, the finest production system in the world," adding that "we (Mulally and Fields) went to study with the master." The Toyota visit also satisfies at least part of a personal objective he set for himself when he assumed the top spot at Ford, which was to meet with the other manufacturers in short order.

While he professes great admiration for Toyota, Mulally's loyalties are not at all in question -- when he accepted the Ford position, he canceled an order he'd placed for a new Lexus.

We're impressed with the candor Mulally showed by speaking so openly about his admiration for the Toyota business processes, and the fact that he's made it a point to sit down with the other manufacturers shows that he's dead serious about learning everything he can to help inform his decision-making process as he leads Ford through its turnaround plan. More importantly, by spending time face-to-face with a competitor like Toyota, he places himself in a position to make observations that would otherwise be impossible. Sure, it was a business visit, but you can bet that both Ford and Toyoa relished the opportunity to do some in-person opposition research.

Ford's geared up to have an exciting NAIAS with two stunning new concepts -- the Lincoln MKR and Ford Interceptor -- that are generating plenty of chatter here at Autoblog. They'll be joined by the new Focus and whatever else the Blue Oval has up its sleeve for Detroit. Those cars will form the backdrop for Mulally's biggest public event yet, and we're we're eagerly looking forward to hearing his remarks at the show.

[Source: Jim Irwin/AP via Yahoo! News

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