You have to figure that Ford's recovery is just about a year behind GM's.
Until Ford hired investment banker Kenneth Leet as a strategic adviser to CEO Bill Ford, I wasn't sure Ford was even that close.
But it was a year ago this week that Wall Streeter Steve Girsky hired in at GM as a special adviser to CEO Rick Wagoner. So, at least on the basis of We-Need-an-Outsider-to-Help-Get-Us-Out-of-This-Mess, Ford is within 12 months of GM.
When a Detroit-based automaker hires an outside expert to advise the CEO, it means someone is thinking outside the box or pushing the panic button. Possibly both.
That's because, deep down, Detroit auto execs believe that nobody knows the car biz the way they do. And even if they're hemorrhaging market share, losing money and flushing shareholder value, no stinkin' outsider is going to come in and tell them how to run their business.
That's why the life expectancy of a special adviser is short. Hey, Girsky lasted 10 months. That's amazing.
Even more impressive is that GM may have paid attention. Girsky went in as a critic. As a Wall Street analyst, he preached that GM needed to cut costs, reduce overhead and shed unneeded capacity. That's what GM has been doing as part of Wagoner's recovery.
Smart automakers use outside consultants to help with various projects. And there is encouraging news about Ford on that front, too. The buzz in the consultant community is that Ford is using them again. That ought to help expand the thought process in Dearborn and limit the intellectual inbreeding that occurs when all you do is talk to yourself.
To be sure, Ford needs to get good advice from Leet . . . and then use it. Otherwise, it's like paying a doctor to advise you to quit smoking and then lighting up as soon as you leave his office.
And if that's all you're doing, why bother?
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]