Archive for Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Lawrence native to steer auto giant

KU engineering alum faces new challenges

September 6, 2006

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Alan Mulally grew up in Lawrence, graduated from Lawrence High School and Kansas University and went on to run the world's busiest commercial airplane business.

Now he's been handed the keys to one of the world's oldest car companies.

Mulally is the new president and chief executive officer at Ford Motor Co., taking over for Bill Ford Jr., who remains executive chairman and great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford.

"My husband and I just bought a Ford truck last week," said Alan's sister Maureen Mulally, who lives in Lawrence and works at KU. "I should have waited a week. I could have gotten a better deal."

Leading up to his introduction Tuesday at Ford in Dearborn, Mich., Alan Mulally had spent the past 37 years at Boeing Co. - the company he joined as an engineer straight out of college at KU, after loading all his "worldly belongings" into his blue Volkswagen Beetle and hitting the road for Seattle.

Alan Mulally is all smiles after being announced Tuesday as Ford Motor Co.'s new CEO during a news conference in Dearborn, Mich. Mulally replaces Bill Ford, who will remain chairman of the company founded by his great-grandfather. The change comes more than seven months into a restructuring, which is the second under Ford's watch and has so far failed to revive the nation's No. 2 automaker.

Alan Mulally is all smiles after being announced Tuesday as Ford Motor Co.'s new CEO during a news conference in Dearborn, Mich. Mulally replaces Bill Ford, who will remain chairman of the company founded by his great-grandfather. The change comes more than seven months into a restructuring, which is the second under Ford's watch and has so far failed to revive the nation's No. 2 automaker.

His career soon took off, taking progressively prominent roles working on Boeing's 727, 737, 747, 757, 767 and - as the project's vice president and general manager - 777 airplanes. By 1998 Mulally was in charge of the company's commercial airplanes business, and in 2001 he became CEO of the unit that in 2005 would record sales of more than $22.6 billion.

Tuesday's abrupt shift in career flight plans surprised faculty in the Engineering School at KU, where Mulally had earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in aeronautical and astronautical engineering and continues to serve on the school's advisory board.

But with the nation's No. 2 automaker struggling - in January it announced plans to close plants and cut up to 30,000 jobs, and through June had posted losses of $1.4 billion - one of Mulally's former professors is certain the company got the right man.

"He's pretty talented," said Chuan-Tau "Eddie" Lan, now a distinguished professor of aerospace engineering. "That's why he turned around Boeing Commercial Airplanes in the last few years. Remember when everybody was saying that Airbus is going to take over? Well, now Boeing is booming, in terms of commercial aircraft.

"I know nothing about Ford Motor Company's financial situation, but if it can be turned around, he's the one to do it."

Lan also knows this: While Mulally is an exceptional engineer - Lan recalls Mulally as being smart, hard-working and "very focused" in his wind theory class in the late 1960s - there are plenty of other things that go into making a quality chief executive.

"You can't save a company through the technical stuff," Lan said. "You need the leadership, and he has that."

Mulally also knows how to treat his mother.

Lauraine Mulally said her son called her Monday to report the news - "I wanted you to be the first one to know," he told her - and excitedly explained how the difference between airplanes and automobiles really wasn't that large.

"He said, 'They have the same technology. I know all about it,'" she said Tuesday.

Now, after years of proudly wearing a "777" brooch and relating tales of her son's aviation dreams, Lauraine Mulally said she was excited about her son running a car company.


Mulally resume

¢ Alan Mulally graduated from Lawrence High School in 1963. He received a bachelor's degree in 1968 from Kansas University and a master's from KU 1969. ¢ Mulally, 61, has spent 37 years at Boeing Co., most recently as executive vice president. He also has been president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes since 2001.

"I'm delighted," she said.

Maureen Mulally still can't believe it. She was so excited at work Tuesday that she had to take the afternoon off, giving her time to go home and watch the news coverage on TV.

She was 4 when her older brother graduated from Lawrence High in 1963, then went on to earn degrees at KU in 1968 and 1969 before loading up that Beetle for the trip to Seattle - where he'd go on to pick up a series of foreign cars through the years.

"He always had a Datsun - 240, 260, 280Z, 300ZX," she said, laughing.

Now, she suspects he'll happily be driving a Ford.

Just like his sister.

"It's pretty awesome, and I don't use that word very often," she said. "It's just awesome."




And GM makes three?

Alan Mulally is the second Kansas University graduate to ascend to a top job at one of America's Big Three automakers. Chrysler Corp. Chairman Emeritus and retired DaimlerChrysler AG Chairman Robert Eaton is a 1963 KU engineering graduate and is the namesake for the Engineering School's Eaton Hall. Chancellor Robert Hemenway congratulated Mulally in a statement released Tuesday. "Alan Mulally has soared to the top of both the aviation and now automotive industries," Hemenway said. "Some may see Kansas roots and a KU degree as humble beginnings, but actually they are just the solid foundation needed for a remarkably successful career in two of the most innovative and competitive industries in the world. We are proud Alan Mulally is a Jayhawk."

Comments

lunacydetector 8 years, 8 months ago

this is great news. maybe he can turn ford around and build a plant right here in lawrence, kansas - something eaton didn't do at chrysler.

i wonder if the city of lawrence would offer ford motor company a tax abatement? i wonder what kind of protest the fringe would come up with if something like this was ever a reality? oh, that's right, cars burn fossil fuels and hurt the environment- never mind, it would NEVER be allowed to happen in lawrence.

paladin 8 years, 8 months ago

He's 61 years old and has no grey hair. How does he do it? Maybe the secret to retaining one's youth is money. They should build an auto plant in Lawrence. That would be funny and ironic. Cept it probly would only be approved if it produced cars painted green that run on hot air. No shortage of fuel around these parts, though.

bankboy119 8 years, 8 months ago

At least somebody from Lawrence is doing something important. Congratulations Alan.

greyhawk 8 years, 8 months ago

"...Bill Ford Jr., who remains executive chairman and great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford."

I wonder if Mulally negotiated for the great-grandson title as well?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 8 months ago

Perhaps the talent of this gentleman can keep Ford entirely in the USA.

The auto giant would probaly return to KCMO considering Ford has facilities in that area with railroad tracks. Last I heard Ford is on its' way to China after laying off 30,000 sometime in the near future. Perhaps if Ford had not bought Volvo,Rover and Juaguar they might not be in financial constraints.

GM got busted for removing "Made in China" from some auto parts.

cms 8 years, 8 months ago

It is my understanding that the Claycomo plant is the largest Ford plant in the US.

paladin 8 years, 8 months ago

Anyway, the nobodies from Lawrence are just as important as the somebodies from Lawrence or anywhere else. In their own special way, they're special, too. Anyhow, if this exalted somebody is anybody at all, the last thing he's gonna do is built anything in or anywhere around Lawrence.

christie 8 years, 8 months ago

Perhaps he'll do something to re-build reliability into these cars as well as responsibility. Ford is notorious for producing dangerous products and still delivering them regardless of human life and limb.

I wouldn't drive an American made car even if I could afford one. The repair bills are out of this world. Anybody who drives anything other than Honda or Toyota is throwing money out the window.

That being said it's nice to see a local boy do good.

Sigmund 8 years, 8 months ago

Ironic that the new CEO of Ford comes from a town that hates the automobile.

Actually the new Focus's are a very good and reliable car for the money and sells quite well in the petrol and performance concsious UK (petrol has been over $5/gallon for sometime now). A good review of the Focus ST is here (not sure if there is an American version of the ST). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lLRFn6Pntk&mode=related&search=

And if KU is looking for engineering or business school endowments or corporate money this could also pay big dividends. I doubt the bozo Business Czar would allow Ford to open anything bigger than another dealership and Merrill wouldn't allow a single new road no matter how many good paying jobs.

paladin 8 years, 8 months ago

Christie- You speak the truth. I drive a Chevy Blazer. Its all about attitude, however. Its become a challenge or some kind of complex game to try to figure out, to get the beast to actually start and take me somewhere. It has many idiosyncrasies, some of which I am aware, and have resulted in both simple and elaborate repairs and the costs of them, and some of which I'm not aware of yet. It has become a hobby or avocation, of sorts. But, I like the feel of a Chevrolet. And, too, I have the false pride thing going for me of buying American. Remembering Iwo Jima and all that.

jonas 8 years, 8 months ago

Posted by Sigmund (anonymous) on September 6, 2006 at 7:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"Ironic that the new CEO of Ford comes from a town that hates the automobile."

Or at least has 50 to 100 very vocal people in it who hate the automobile. What's the difference?

OldEnuf2BYurDad 8 years, 8 months ago

"Ironic that the new CEO of Ford comes from a town that hates the automobile."

The heavy traffic speeding down my street would suggest that we have a "mild dislike" at worst.

cblsttrotwd 8 years, 8 months ago

maybe all the people that 'love' cars can drive around monster trucks to offset all the people that 'hate' cars. that way we can just be indifferent.

compmd 8 years, 8 months ago

Christie, Keep thinking that Hondas and Toyotas are good investements when you crash into my Volvo. Oh, and can you show me a 34 year old Honda or Toyota car that is still working? I'm not a big American car fan, and generally I will not come to their defense, but there are tons of 40 year old Fords rolling around. My mother has a Honda, and parts for her car rival or exceed the costs of my Mercedes.

Mulally is going to use experience from Boeing to bring a very important factor to Ford: Safety. Ford hasn't been doing so well there lately. Did you know that until the current Mustang the base model didn't even come with ABS? Then you've got the whole Explorer fiasco. When it comes to airplane design you can't cut corners. A few Ford Explorers flip over and catch fire, and people wonder what's wrong. A few 747's fall out of the sky, and the whole world VERY quickly takes notice. I work with one of Alan's former professors, and safety and engineering ethics are a big deal. Given the design drivers used in the 787, I would also hope that Ford starts looking at embracing technologies to make their cars more efficient without sacrificing quality.

prioress 8 years, 8 months ago

Eventually, all cars will be "world cars" with parts built on more than one continent and assembled somewhere else. I wish this guy good luck and congratulate him. I hope he can keep Jaguar going; they are making some progress in this area.

jonas 8 years, 8 months ago

"Posted by compmd (anonymous) on September 6, 2006 at 9:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Christie, Keep thinking that Hondas and Toyotas are good investements when you crash into my Volvo. Oh, and can you show me a 34 year old Honda or Toyota car that is still working?"

You mean from barely a decade from the time they first showed up? Honda was founded barely 50 years ago.

The reason there are 40 year old Fords is because of classic car enthusiests, who continually refurbish and maintain old cars. Maybe some time you should ask one of those Ford's drivers how much it costs to maintain their Mustang.

Evan Ridenour 8 years, 8 months ago

"I wouldn't drive an American made car even if I could afford one. The repair bills are out of this world. Anybody who drives anything other than Honda or Toyota is throwing money out the window."

Obviously you don't keep yourself informed. In 2005 Toyota issued recalls for more cars then they sold! They have let the quality and reliability of their cars slip in the race to get to the top.

KsTwister 8 years, 8 months ago

If it is American made then it will be American sold. We are thinking of switching to Toyota. Why, because they are made here.Ford has more recalls then anyone-been there done that. Still will hate to stop buying from them when they go South.

bangaranggerg 8 years, 8 months ago

I really got a kick to see he's a Datsun Z fan. I've had a number of those in my life as well. I wanna hang out with this guy, really proud of a local achieving that sort of sucess. Hopefully with his background at Boeing and with his quote about the technology in cars and planes being similar- he'll lead to the design of a flying car.

Scott Drummond 8 years, 8 months ago

"oh, that's right, cars burn fossil fuels and hurt the environment- never mind, it would NEVER be allowed to happen in lawrence."

Or, with progressive Lawrence in his blood, he could bring a next generation electric/hybrid car to be built here in the midwest. It's not the cars that are objectionable, afterall, it's the wanton waste that they involve. Produce a low emmissions vehicle and I'll love it with all my tree-hugging might.

bangaranggerg 8 years, 8 months ago

ya no, you progressive lawrence blood poisened folk... We're talking about flying cars here, I'd love that with all my flying car might.

KsTwister 8 years, 8 months ago

I had a car that flew once: right off an embankment and into a lake. NEVER let an idiot drive your car.

compmd 8 years, 8 months ago

Pywacket, In a way you helped my point. If you think a car from 1988 is "ancient", you've got another thing coming. My newest car is an 88, and its a Volvo. All the power goodies work and it doesn't leak anything. Still on the factory original clutch, too. My early 1970's Mercedes came standard with items that weren't even options on several cars sold in the States for 20 years. She drives like a charm. Maintenance is inexpensive. In fact, in three years I replaced a 19 year old brake caliper for $45 and an even older master cylinder for $32, and a new battery. However, you get props for keeping that Camry going for 280k miles. That is pretty awesome. But if you consider that mileage to be huge, you should talk to some MB diesel drivers.

Jonas, I hope you took note that I don't defend American cars, I don't really like them. The point is that you can drive out on the roads any day and see several 30+ year old Detroit built cars rolling around happily. Many Hondas and Toyotas that are 20 years and older you see are belching burnt oil out their exhausts due to excessive engine wear.

Someone with Alan's background will bring safety, reliability, and innovation to the forefront at Ford. The American automakers need to kick it up a notch, and hopefully this change will help that happen.

Just to throw out a fun statistic, I drive 4 Mercedes, 2 Volvos, and 2 Lincolns. Combined mileage: 1,289,000 miles, and counting.

compmd 8 years, 8 months ago

Pywacket, thats great. Overall, everyone's quality has gone down the hole. Ford especially as of late. Its the "they made 'em better back in the day" problem. However, I appreciate good engineering an awful lot, and I think that if Ford can start competing in quality engineering again, it will make everyone improve.

Bob-RJ Burkhart 8 years, 8 months ago

I agree with Chancelor Robert Hemenway's perspective!

"Some may see Kansas roots and a KU degree as humble beginnings, but actually they are just the solid foundation needed for a remarkably successful career ..."

Higher education in Kansas has prepared its graduates to conserve landscapes and culitvate mindscapes. But, it's more effective when "blended" with attitude and aptitude PLUS an ability to reliably apply these "gifts" with ethical accountability.

The current reality is that our K-12 public educaton system is driven by extreme APTITUDE testing without as much concern for integrating other "A-Team" factors ...

So, systematically skewed K-12 priorities feed higher education with students LESS well-prepared to accept GLOBAL future thought leadership challenges!

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