Is the rest of the auto industry just going to sit back and let Jac Nasser build his executive dream team? Don't be surprised if Jurgen Schrempp, Jack Smith or Joachim Milberg hijacks some big Ford name off a Dearborn street corner, just to spite Nasser.
But the response so far has been nil. There is a recruiting war going on in the car business and Ford is winning. Now Wolfgang Reitzle, a Nasser conquest himself a few months ago, has joined in. The head of Ford's Premier luxury group has hired Dieter Laxy and Vic Doolan, two sales and marketing executives from his former employer, BMW.
Ford has brought in former Nissan ace Earl Hesterberg to take over European sales and marketing, and in the USA has recruited rising stars from General Electric, Proctor and Gamble, and Whirlpool. Earlier in the year Nasser plucked Chris Theodore, DaimlerChrysler's minivan guru, and Shamel Rushwin, one of D/C's top manufacturing men.
Nasser has been accused of hiring executives without a real plan for what to do with them. And the recruits bring with them a variety of personal styles that may not always mesh with Ford's refined culture. But they all have one thing in common. Former colleagues describe them as uncommonly, even incredibly, bright. That's the way Nasser likes his people - as smart as a whip.
In the 1990s, new companies in new industries have succeeded by emphasizing intellectual horsepower. The mature, capital-intensive car business tends to undervalue raw talent, while exaggerating the importance of personal style. Nasser wants to mimic brainy industries like computers and biotech - the decade's growth leaders.
He has moved Rose Mary Farenden, the Ford Focus program manager, into a crucial new position - head of global recruitment. A clever engineer with a marketing flair, Farenden will set a strategy to compete with high-fliers like Microsoft for the brightest graduates.
The auto world also has to keep the talented people it already employs. Executives tend to view consolidation as a reason to leave the industry. But able managers are needed now more than ever.
Recruiting is everything. Auto companies can no longer be preoccupied with whether an executive 'fits in the organization' -said to be the reason why GM didn't pursue Reitzle. Tension that results when they don't fit in can be damaging. But it can also be wildly creative. What if Louis Schweitzer had decided not to hire hard-charging Michelin man Carlos Ghosn for fear that he would not mesh with Renault regulars?
Rarely does one executive - even a brilliant CEO - make a difference between success and failure. But five or six great ones can make all the difference.