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COMMENT: Visions and tough realities

Franz W. Rother is Editor-in-Chief of Automobilwoche

Ford Motor Co. has been working on its transformation strategy for nearly three years. But the end to the crisis at the world's second largest automobile manufacturer appears nowhere in sight.

Next week the figures for the third quarter will be announced, and the balance sheet probably will show another loss. One reason is the company's European business, which was once one of the company's most profitable.

Those times are long gone.

Ford President Nick Scheele can probably remember the better days. He was promoted in 2001 because of remarkable success leading Ford of Europe.

After Scheele's move, things at Ford of Europe started to go haywire. David Thursfield was moved to the group's head offices just as he started to get accustomed to the European business.

Martin Leach succeeded Thursfield, despite his lack of experience managing such a large business sector -- his strength was more within product development. The result was that less than a year later there was another change at Ford of Europe.

Leach lost his nerve and left Ford hoping he might become a troubleshooter at Fiat -- without luck.

Now Lewis Booth is supposed to repair what his two predecessors couldn't fix due to lack of time. He is expected to restructure Ford of Europe and to turn it back into a success story. This will not be easy due to the constant top management changes -- not to mention all the changes on the other levels. No one seems to have an overview of costs and capacities.

The company will try to reorganization using cost-cutting methods such as spending millions to send experienced employees into early retirement and reducing capacities, which just months ago were said to be crucial to the planned model offensive.

It is difficult to see the plan's logic, making the success of the restructuring measures doubtful.

"Besides having visions one should never lose touch with reality," Scheele said. True. Nevertheless, the tough realities should not lead to a total loss of one's visions.

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