DETROIT -- Jim Padilla won't be there to finish Ford Motor Co.'s latest turnaround. Capping a career of tough assignments, Ford's president and COO is retiring to make way for a younger generation of leaders who will create a leaner, smaller and - they hope - more profitable company.
"These times are so challenging, it's probably going to require new solutions," Padilla said in an interview in his corner office on Ford's 12th floor.
Padilla proteges Mark Fields and Anne Stevens are leading the company's Way Forward restructuring, which includes eliminating up to 34,000 North American jobs over the next six years. While praising the plan, Padilla warned, "We have to be very quick and adaptive if it isn't enough."
Ford's 2002 restructuring, the first under CEO Bill Ford, took out almost that many jobs - and still failed to keep up with declines in North American sales.
Padilla, 59, is a native Detroiter who speaks both softly and fiercely. His loyalty to Ford is legendary, as are the hours he works.
He rose to the corner office by succeeding in challenging times and places. "This is about my fourth or fifth turnaround," he said. Before
this came Jaguar, South America, global manufacturing.
As a 40-year Ford veteran, Padilla represents a lot of institutional knowledge. But that may have played a role in Bill Ford's move to a new generation. "I'm an operationally oriented guy," Padilla said.
He retains a vision for Ford: "In five years, Ford will be a leaner organization, far more focused on delivering more product, faster." Ford will be less dependent on North America. And Ford's North American operations will be less dependent on trucks.
Meanwhile, Padilla expects Ford to find solutions with the UAW. He said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger's team is realistic about the challenges facing Detroit - and won't blow up the traditional Detroit companies with strikes. "Unless we develop solutions," Padilla said, "the 'nuclear option' will be disastrous for all."
Padilla is proud that Ford recognized that Visteon Corp., its former parts operation, wasn't sustainable, "so we took them back."
He and his wife, Alice, own homes in northern Michigan and Florida. Any plans for retirement?
"I'm going to take some time," Padilla said. "I'm going to spend some weeks in northern Michigan. I'm going to read a book.
"I'll probably be a little antsy, but I need some time to reflect."
You may e-mail Peter Brown at [email protected]