Register now for free access to - this week only.

Drama inside an automaker makes for must-see TV

There's a room inside Ford Motor Co.'s world headquarters where the key decisions on managing the company are made.

It's not CEO Alan Mulally's office.

It's called the Thunderbird room. Down the hall from it, there's the Taurus room. It houses color-coded wall charts of Ford's progress and problems around the world.

Anything “red” is a problem.

But Mulally says red is OK because then everyone knows what to work on next.

Those are a couple of the behind-the-scenes factoids in an upcoming documentary called: “Ford: Rebuilding an American Icon.” It airs Nov. 10 at 9 p.m. EST on CNBC.

I know about it because a public relations firm sent me a highlight reel.

Correspondent Phil LeBeau apparently spent months at Ford. He shows the steps Mulally took to change Ford's culture and rebuild the company. It also discusses the Ford family's ups and downs over the years.

There's a powerful scene during a meeting early in Mulally's tenure at Ford in which Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, admits there was an issue with a part for the Edge crossover. The Thunderbird room fell silent. Then Mulally starts applauding and thanked Fields for his honesty.

It's the moment that prompts other Ford leaders to admit to problems in their operating areas, too. What follows is a dramatic shift in Ford's antiquated culture where no one ever acknowledged problems.

You might remember LeBeau. In December 2008 he hosted the CNBC documentary “Saving General Motors: Inside the Crisis.” In it, LeBeau took an in-depth look at the auto industry's and GM's troubles. He challenged then-CEO Rick Wagoner about his job performance.

LeBeau also got then-Vice Chairman Bob Lutz to admit to GM's past failures in car quality and design. About six months later, GM filed for federal bankruptcy protection.

This Ford documentary appears to be very different — one of a comeback rather than a collapse.

But it promises to be just as compelling.

ATTENTION COMMENTERS: Automotive News has monitored a significant increase in the number of personal attacks and abusive comments on our site. We encourage our readers to voice their opinions and argue their points. We expect disagreement. We do not expect our readers to turn on each other. We will be aggressively deleting all comments that personally attack another poster, or an article author, even if the comment is otherwise a well-argued observation. If we see repeated behavior, we will ban the commenter. Please help us maintain a civil level of discourse.

Email Newsletters
  • General newsletters
  • (Weekdays)
  • (Mondays)
  • (As needed)
  • Video newscasts
  • (Weekdays)
  • (Weekdays)
  • (Saturdays)
  • Special interest newsletters
  • (Thursdays)
  • (Tuesdays)
  • (Monthly)
  • (Monthly)
  • (Wednesdays)
  • (Bimonthly)
  • Special reports
  • (As needed)
  • (As needed)
  • Communication preferences
  • You can unsubscribe at any time through links in these emails. For more information, see our Privacy Policy.