It’s the start of a new era at Ford

The story goes, I am told, that Henry Ford II once walked into Ernie Breech’s office and told Breech that he, Ford, thought he had learned enough and would be taking the reins of Ford Motor Co. Exit Mr. Breech, who by all standards rescued the company shortly after World War II.

This week, Bill Ford, it would appear, believes that he has learned enough and is ready to tackle the toughest job at Ford Motor Co. Jacques Nasser left the company last week after 33 years at Ford.

Bill Ford, 44, has the enthusiastic support of his employees, his dealers and, I suspect, his suppliers. It’s a tough job, but I would venture to say that he’s got it in him to do just fine.

He has put into place some longtime Ford executives who should be able to give him the support that he’ll definitely need in the coming months. If the car business is tough right now, it’s probably going to be even tougher in the next year and a half.

But I think everybody wishes Bill Ford well. He has the support of probably the entire automotive community, and that will be helpful for the next bit. And as bad as it looks, he probably will have to concentrate on the Ford brand in North America.

It seems that Ford Motor has things well in hand in Europe. Although the company is not where it would like it to be, it has everything in place, including executives. Asia, under Henry Wallace, seems to be heading in the right direction as well. The youthful head of Mazda announced a profit rather than an expected loss during the Tokyo Motor Show.

The Premier Auto Group also seems to be well under control. It has the right personnel and the right direction, and it has to wait for its products to be launched.

But in North America, the Ford brand has lost its luster, and that’s what Bill Ford will probably want to keep his eye on. The success of Ford cars and trucks is simply the difference between a healthy company and an unhealthy company.

Bill Ford isn’t going to run the company the way his uncle did when he took over in his late twenties. It’s a different company with completely different problems. Bill has his work cut out for him, and luckily he has the goodwill of just about everyone.

We all wish him well.

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