Booth, Kuzak: Key players in Ford's comeback
Booth: Kept cash flowing in difficult times
DETROIT -- With the retirements of CFO Lewis Booth and product development chief Derrick Kuzak, Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally loses two lieutenants who played critical roles in the company's comeback.
Booth, a stolid English bulldog, knew the importance of keeping the cash flowing for new-product programs even during the darkest days of the recession. Kuzak, a shy, soft-spoken engineer's engineer, knew how to get the most bang for the buck in executing those programs.
The two developed a respectful working relationship at Ford of Europe when Booth was CEO and Kuzak was product development chief there. Each has more than 30 years of experience at Ford.
"One of the reasons you see our stand full of fresh product is we carried on investing in the worst of times," Booth said during an interview at the Detroit auto show last month, where Ford showed off the sleek 2013 Fusion and redesigned Escape crossover. In the past, the company would have skimped during hard times, he said.
Booth, summoned to Detroit by Mulally from Ford of Europe in 2008, has been tenacious about paying down Ford's restructuring debt. He has kept costs in check and held prices stable. Under his guidance, Ford will resume paying its dividend in March for the first time since October of 2006.
Discussing Ford's commitment to reinvent the Lincoln brand, Booth said: "You've seen the genius of Derrick Kuzak, what he's done from a Ford product perspective. I don't think there's any doubt he can do the same with Lincoln."
Kuzak: Steered global product development plan
The quiet, mustachioed Kuzak was more comfortable toiling 16-hour days in the product development center than giving public presentations.
Soon after coming to Ford from Boeing Co., Mulally called Kuzak in for a Sunday chat. Their discussion focused, as Mulally recalled later, on "trying to understand why Ford was regionalized."
There was no good reason, the two men finally agreed. The duplication of effort in Europe and North America, with each developing similar cars separately, was a waste Ford could not afford. "We came together on that vision of global platforms," said Mulally. And the CEO had the product-development chief he needed.
Kuzak became the architect of the One Ford product development plan, which will concentrate most of Ford's global vehicles on just five platforms. For example, the 2013 Ford Fusion and, in Europe, Mondeo mid-sized sedans will be virtually identical except for minor differences mandated by local regulations and some engine and transmission variations.
The result has been a series of vehicles developed at costs that make them affordable despite boasting a host of new features. Ford's rising market share and profits are the legacy Booth and Kuzak leave.
You can reach Bradford Wernle at firstname.lastname@example.org.