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COMMENT: 2000 and One Ford: Mulally's global odyssey

Edward Lapham is the executive editor of Automotive News.
Last week's reorganization of Ford Motor Co.'s global product development and purchasing operations is a logical step in CEO Alan Mulally's campaign to forge one global Ford.

Ford's new structure designates global product development centers in specific regions for specific vehicle segments.

Logically, that means Europe will develop small cars, and North America will develop full-sized trucks. Compact trucks will be designed, developed and engineered in Asia and Africa.

And I guess that means Mazda will do everything else off the Mazda6 platform.

Sorry. I know I'm naughty, but I just couldn't resist.

Actually, One Ford is a simple, reasonable concept to standardize vehicles while allowing individual variations in local markets.

It sounds similar to the system that General Motors uses — and hauntingly like parts of former Ford CEO Alex Trotman's Ford 2000 vision to unify global product development, manufacturing and marketing.

The Ford 2000 reorganization was unveiled in 1994 and launched Jan. 1, 1995. At the time, it sounded quite logical. Who could argue with a dream of maximizing global resources?

A key goal was to create five vehicle centers to design small cars, large cars, luxury cars, personal trucks and commercial trucks. So Ford crafted global platforms and powertrains, which spawned five platform teams of designers, engineers and marketers.

It might have worked. Unfortunately, too many product decisions were made in Dearborn with little or no input from Ford's sales operations around the world. The biggest cultural shock was tucking Ford of Europe under North America.

Sales and profits hit the fan.

When Jacques Nasser succeeded Trotman in 1999, he unwound some of Ford 2000 by restoring decision-making power to the regions.

Mulally and other top Ford execs acknowledge the failures of Ford 2000. If they keep those lessons in mind and execute the plan the way they drew it up, One Ford has a chance to succeed.

It had better work. Nobody wants it to be deja vu all over again.

You can reach Edward Lapham at elapham@crain.com



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