DETROIT - Bill Ford says he's committed to being Ford Motor Co.'s CEO during this unfolding restructuring. On the other hand, if someone more suited to the job comes along, that's OK, too.
The Ford family scion, 48, answered questions about his role at Ford Motor at a Sept. 21 press conference.
You've been CEO for almost four years. Is this your big test?
Every day is a big test. The world changes so much all the time. The state of the externals are so much different today than they were a year ago. I know we were on the right path. We started to invest more in cars, more in fuel efficiency, several years ago, knowing that oil was going to be a dear and more precious resource. We in no way anticipated $70-a-barrel oil a year ago. So the world has changed, and it's changing rapidly.
With every change, it does provide a big new test for us and for me personally. And there is no blueprint for this. We're in times and conditions that this industry hasn't seen before. It's not going to be a bed of roses for the next number of quarters. But we are making progress, and we've taken some important steps to get us back on the road.
There have been reports that you've approached Carlos Ghosn (CEO of Renault and Nissan) about a job. You've approached Dieter Zetsche (DaimlerChrysler CEO-designate) about a job. Can you talk about your own commitment to being CEO?
It's part of my job to always talk to everyone in the industry and seek out the best talent. I'm always going to do that. I'm not looking to go anywhere from this job. The jobs you've referenced, I mean they weren't coming for my job. Am I going to continue talking to executives around the industry? Absolutely.
Can you say whether you still want to be CEO when you're 55 or 60 or 65? About the people you've been talking to, you say it has not been for your role. But are you out there looking for somebody who could be the next CEO?
Part of my job as chairman is to make sure the board has a variety of people to choose from. I always want the board to have more than one choice for my job and for all the top jobs.
But that doesn't answer the first part of your question, in terms of how long I want to do this. I have no idea. I think I even said four years ago, "I don't know." Because I'm going to remain with this company anyway. I won't be a traditional CEO, where I retire and walk out the door and never come back again. They're going to have to get rid of me in a very different way when the time comes. I love this place.
And if there's somebody better to be CEO, fine, because I'm not leaving. And if I can provide leadership for this place in a different role, that's fine, too. But I'm not anticipating that.
People have called you the reluctant CEO. Is that fair?
Not anymore. No, I'm not reluctant at all. When I stepped into it, I would have said the timing was not my choosing. I have a young family. You do make trade-offs in this role.
Part of it is there are tensions in terms of wanting to spend time with my kids, spending time at home with my family. But everybody faces that in their job. So was the timing ideal? From a personal standpoint, no. But you can't choose your timing. I'm not reluctant at all anymore. Not that I ever was. I shouldn't say anymore. I think it was more of a timing issue.