Automotive News All Stars
Mulally may be running Microsoft before long. His ongoing refusal to comment directly about rumors that he is interviewing for the tech company's top job speaks volumes.
But Mulally, 68, has earned the right to leave Ford on his own terms. The youthful Kansas native has transformed a creaking industrial dinosaur on the verge of bankruptcy into a dynamo and shining symbol of the resurgence of American industry.
In what is almost surely his final full year at the company he exuberantly calls "our wonderful Ford," Mulally has overseen what is shaping up as an orderly succession plan. He has seen to it that Mark Fields is COO and heir apparent. And the bench behind Fields appears strong. Joe Hinrichs, who could one day succeed Fields in the top job, has returned from three years in Ford's Asia Pacific Africa region to take the reins of Ford's booming Americas business unit. The hard-charging Jim Farley is pushing Ford to the cutting edge of marketing.
Ford has fended off challenges from General Motors and Ram to its truck supremacy, and has shown that it can sell cars and small crossovers. The company is gaining ground rapidly in China and its European restructuring is gaining traction.
Problems remain for Mulally's successor. The company must get a handle on the infotainment mess that has hurt Ford quality ratings. Ford must learn to match its big ambitions to the realities of its product development and manufacturing limitations. And Lincoln is still struggling.
What sets Mulally apart is the same thing that makes him appealing to a company such as Microsoft. He has proved peerless at identifying Ford's corporate mission and explaining in crystal clear terms to everyone from employees to investors to dealers to suppliers to customers. Ford promises profitable growth for all making a global family of vehicles that fit core characteristics
"quality, green, safe and smart."
It's a simple strategy that will be held up as an example in business schools for years to come.