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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

 

Now That Ford Has Wings, Will It Fly?


My initial reaction to Alan Mulally's hiring as Ford's new CEO was surprise, then fear...then serenity. Ohhhmmmm...

I lived in Seattle so I remember him from Boeing...and Boeing has had its share of major market swings and contretemps. Two CEO resignations in a short span, the silly move of its HQ from Seattle to Chicago (so...they wouldn't have to "fly" so much?) and a nasty Air Force contract scandal leading to a jailterm for the Boeing CFO.

Although I initially felt Alan Mulally lacked the auto experience necessary to be immediately successful he does have the engineering, manufacturing and union background necessary to successfully manage an international company. It's always difficult to assess whether the upswing in Boeing's commercial aircraft division was due to him...or another series of factors (i.e. a rising tide lifting all boats, product that was put in place before his arrival, etc.)

He gets universal praise for his performance so there is strong hope that he can translate success and passion for building the best aircraft to the car business. Those watching the car business will immediately recognize that outsiders have rarely been successful in Detroit. More recently, whiz kids from packaged goods, consumer electronics and banking have found that success in pampers, banking or contact lenses do not a car marketer make. Something about the inherent value in a disposable good that lasts a week or a few months, vs. the second largest expense a household is likely to undertake in their lifetime. Plus...who spends 6 months shopping for dog food, frozen snacks or their next bank?

At least he understands the long term product development project has to fit the market...or you have the predicament of Ford today. Products that miss the market need. Everyone in Southeast Michigan feels that pain. Let's hope this idea flies.

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