In hindsight, Alan Mulally’s decision to come from Boeing to Dearborn’s Ford Motor Co. may have been the automaker’s biggest break in recent memory. Since 2006 when he signed on, Ford has completely turned its operations around, weathered a global recession with grace and relative ease, and made its portfolio the strongest it has arguably ever been. So when it was announced that Mulally — who is 68 — would be stepping down from his post as CEO after July, it symbolized the end of a decidedly short, yet crucial era in Ford’s history.
“I’ve fallen in love with Ford, it’s a great company,” Mulally said in an interview with Bloomberg, which followed his final Town Hall meeting yesterday with employees at the automaker’s headquarters in Dearborn, the site said. “I’ll maintain many of the great relationships I have.” Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that despite his exiting the CEO office, Mulally will continue to play an active role as an advisor and counsel to current operating officer Mark Fields.
Mulally played an integral role in shifting Ford’s corporate culture to one of inclusion and open communication among departments, clearing out bureaucratic cobwebs that can slow companies to a crawl. Weekly meetings became commonplace, the management of which has since been passed on to Fields. Nonetheless, Mulally will remain close with the company, which will tentatively help ease the transition, as smooth executive departures haven’t exactly been Ford’s strong suit.
Mulally has been rather mum on his plans post-Ford. He’ll still hang around in some executive capacity — either as a board member or a chair, Bloomberg said. But his plans for what he’ll be doing after his stint as CEO remain unclear, though it’s reported that he would consider a job such as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has a $160 billion budget and is the fifth largest of any federal agency — but he declined to comment on that. “What I’d like to do is call you on July 2 and tell you what I’m thinking about,” Mulally told Bloomberg. “And I’ll probably call you from a Starbucks.”
Over the last five years, Ford earned $42.3 billion under Mulally’s direction, following up a loss of $30.1 billion between 2006 and 2008. It was within Mulally’s fostering of a new culture that Fields was brought up — conditioned, in a sense; an “early acolyte of Mulally’s culture of collaboration and candor,” Bloomberg said, adding that it was he who revived Ford’s North America business, which earned a record operating profit of $8.78 billion last year.
It’s perhaps additionally imperative that Ford’s transition progress smoothly, as 2014 is slated to be among the busiest on record as far as new model releases go. Cumulatively, Ford will be launching 23 new or revamped products around the world, with 16 alone in the U.S. Extra drama from executive shuffling could throw of that plan, so it’s in Ford’s best interests to mitigate it. So far, that doesn’t seem like it will be much of an issue, though.
The interview comes as Ford’s Joe Hinrichs, president of the Americas, said that the automaker was on schedule for its 2015 F-150 deliveries, which were a point of concern for analysts and investors given the truck’s new dependence on an aluminum frame and all the manufacturing and repair shifts that come along with it.
“We believe we are ready” to start building the new vehicle at a factory in Dearborn later this summer, Hinrichs told The Wall Street Journal. His comments were in response to concerns from investment brokerage Morgan Stanley, which on Tuesday expressed warning for the potential of a slow launch, given that the new F-150 will be the highest volume vehicle to utilize such a high degree of aluminum.