Jac Nasser stepped into the limelight wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt beside one of his favorite performers, country music star Alan Jackson.
The occasion was a concert for 40,000 Ford employees last September, the day before Nasser was named Ford Motor Co.'s president and CEO.
Hamming it up with a country music star is unusual for Detroit's formal auto executives. But Nasser, 51, is breaking molds at Ford.
He has assembled a dynamic team of top executives, purchased Volvo Cars and crafted a simple but powerful business mission for Ford. In recognition, Automotive News reporters and editors voted Nasser Industry Leader of the Year.
With uncommon energy, he is pushing Ford to move faster and do more. He has the rare personality capable of pushing a vision deep into a vast and ponderous bureaucracy.
Nasser wants to make Ford an automotive consumer powerhouse, a company that provides everything from credit to radio programming to automotive repair and used parts.
A carefully unstated goal is to pass General Motors as the largest auto company in the world.
Nasser, who was born in Lebanon and raised in Melbourne, Australia, speaks Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese in addition to English.
He usually starts his workday by 7 a.m., heading home to Bloomfield Hills, Mich., by 7: 30 p.m.
He keeps time with a collection of Swiss watches. 'When you think about watches, in many ways they reflect the attributes of the auto industry,' he said. 'They're about brand and product positioning. They work in extreme conditions.'
Nasser came to William Clay Ford Jr.'s attention in the late 1970s when Nasser ran financial operations for several South American countries out of a Dearborn office. Ford, now the company's chairman, worked under Nasser as an analyst for the region.
A BUSY YEAR
Nasser became CEO on Jan. 1, the same day Ford assumed the chairmanship. And Nasser has been very busy:
In February, just one month into his tenure, he engineered Ford's purchase of the car operations of AB Volvo.
In March, Nasser announced that he had hired Wolfgang Reitzle, the widely respected former No. 2 man at BMW AG, to head Ford's Premier Automotive Group, a position created just for him.
Seeking to expand Ford's involvement in every aspect of the automotive food chain, Nasser announced in May that Ford will run a used-parts business in every major U.S. market within two years.
In Europe, Nasser bought the Kwik-Fit chain of about 1,900 service shops to capture more dollars from nontraditional revenue sources.
These business decisions are all part of Nasser's recipe to re-create Ford. He has accomplished a lot already, and he is far from finished.