Ford leaders must plan carefully, but not panic

OPINION
 

It must be frustrating for Ford Motor Co.’s new leaders, CEO William Clay Ford Jr. and COO Nick Scheele, to discover that their company’s problems are much deeper than they imagined. It has been a long time since Ford Motor needed this much help.

Even so, the situation is far from desperate. Ford Motor’s stakeholders — employees, customers, investors and suppliers — must be a part of the solution. Here is a punch list of things for Bill Ford and Scheele to keep in mind.

1. Remember that everything in the auto industry begins and ends with product. Former Ford CEO Alex Trotman was right when he said he would even sell the furniture so that he wouldn’t have to cut product development. Without new product, you cannot hope to compete, let alone recover.

2. Fix the quality problems fast. Even great product is diminished by recalls and shoddy quality.

3. Take a lesson from the old Chrysler Corp. when it was having problems: Prove that you know what you’re doing by showing off something special that’s in the pipeline. Let investors and customers share your confidence. Even the K car worked wonders for Chrysler.

4. Stay in a crisis mode, but not a panic mode. The industry will come back. Don’t panic over the need to cut costs, but convince your employees, suppliers and shareholders that their sacrifices will be rewarded.

5. Be creative, not conservative. Fight the urge to play it safe with successful products, as the company did with the 2002 Explorer. Design and product development are about passion. It’s time to put some fire back in the belly.

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