His name was on the building, but Bill Ford didn't always feel he was getting the straight scoop from top lieutenants when he was Ford CEO from 2001 to 2006.
That's one revelation in American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company, a book by Detroit News reporter Bryce Hoffman that goes on sale this week.
As an example, from excerpts being offered on the Internet as buyer-bait, Hoffman writes of Bill Ford's chagrin when he learned North America wouldn't get the second-generation Focus that Ford of Europe planned to offer around middecade. Instead, Americans would get merely a reskinned version of the first-generation Focus.
When Ford found out that Europe was getting a new version of the Focus compact, he asked why North America was sticking with the old version.
"It's out of sync with our product segmentation," [Ford President Jim] Padilla told him.
What the heck does that mean? Ford thought, suspecting that he was being snowed once again.
"Okay," he said, "then why can't we converge the two products."
"The product cycles don't line up," Padilla told him. "They're at different phases. We'll have to wait until the next redesign."
But Ford knew they would still be out of sync then.
This is all a bunch of bullshit, he fumed as he left the meeting. Nobody will give me a straight answer.
Before Alan Mulally was named CEO in summer 2006, it was widely reported that Bill Ford had pursued DaimlerChrysler's Dieter Zetsche and Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn. Joe Laymon, Ford's executive vice president for human resources, did the actual pursuing. Laymon met with Ghosn at a restaurant in Tokyo. Ghosn was interested -- but the conditions were eye-popping.
It had taken Laymon three trips to Japan to get Ghosn to this restaurant. In the middle of dinner he reached into his pocket, pulled out an envelope, and slid Ford's offer across the table. Ghosn took a quick look at it, shook his head and handed it back to Laymon. He was not interested in working for Bill Ford. He would come to Dearborn. He would save Ford Motor Company. But he wanted to be CEO from the start -- and chairman.
"I can't do that," said a stunned Laymon.
Ghosn smiled. "Just tell Bill that I'm his man -- provided I'm CEO and chairman," he insisted.
Laymon excused himself and went out to call Bill Ford.
"Good news, bad news," Laymon told his boss. "The good news is we got him. The bad news is he wants your job."
Ford told Laymon to get on the plane and come home.
When Mark Fields was transferred from Europe to the top job at Ford of Americas in the fall of 2005, he soon tangled with Anne Stevens, COO of the Americas -- a hard-nosed manufacturing executive who wanted Fields' job.
Stevens was Ford's first female plant manager in Europe in 1995 and its first female vice president of vehicle operations in 2001. As COO of the Americas group, she was one of the most powerful women in the automotive industry. She left Ford in 2006.
At fifty-six she was more than 10 years older than Fields and made no secret of the fact that she wanted his job. The two clashed from the start.
At an early off-site meeting for senior managers, Stevens made a passionate plea to stop the backsliding on quality.
"We're never going to get our customers back if we don't improve quality," she said. "It's the only way we can change the way people look at Ford."
When she finished listing all the ways Ford was failing on this front, Fields raised his hand with a smirk.
"My name is Mark Fields and I have a quality problem," he chuckled.
Stevens glared at him. This was serious stuff and she thought he was belittling it -- and her.