It’s not just hometown pride that makes us glad to see the positive financial numbers being posted by the Ford Motor Co.
We take a special interest in Ford’s success because the company is led by Alan Mulally, who grew up in Lawrence and is a graduate of both Lawrence High School and Kansas University. But what Mulally is accomplishing at Ford is well worthy of applause even outside his hometown.
While Chrysler and General Motors were accepting billions of dollars of federal bailout money, Mulally took a pass, saying the company had a plan to restore its financial stability without declaring bankruptcy or using federal funds.
Tough decisions were involved, but they have paid off for Ford, which, on Monday, posted a $997 million profit for the third quarter of this year. It was the first time the company had reported a profit since the first quarter of 2008.
Tuesday brought more good news for Ford. Auto industry analysts had predicted that despite Ford’s profit figures, the company still would report a decline in vehicle sales of about 3.5 percent for October. That wouldn’t have been particularly disappointing, given the current economy, but the analysts were in for a surprise. Figures released Tuesday showed Ford’s U.S. sales were 3 percent higher than a year ago and up 21 percent from September. By comparison, Chrysler reported a 30 percent decline in sales from last October.
Mulally accepted Ford’s turnaround with his usual modesty, saying, “we still face a challenging road ahead.” He noted, however, that “our transformation is working.”
Mulally, who left his job as chief executive officer of Boeing to take the reins of Ford in 2006, always presents an optimistic outlook. He has a ready smile and is always envisioning a brighter future for his companies.
He’s probably not the only business leader who does that, but Mulally, much more than most, seems to have the plan and the intelligence to turn that brighter future into reality. The turnaround for Ford is all the sweeter because he was able to do it without accepting taxpayer subsidies. He did it the old-fashioned way, depending on basic principles of capitalism, trimming less desirable products and cutting overhead to make his company more profitable.
It goes without saying that Mulally’s work with Ford is an example that others should — and, in all likelihood are trying to — follow. The modest Mulally should take a bow for accomplishing what many observers thought was impossible at Ford.