DETROIT -- After launch problems crippled the rollout of the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ, Ford Motor Co. throttled back aggressive ramp-up timetables, CEO Mark Fields said in an exclusive interview last week.
The results of the major reassessment have been a smoother launch of the 2015 Lincoln MKC and an F-150 pickup launch that's on schedule, at least so far.
Speaking in his first major interview as Ford CEO since taking over from Alan Mulally last summer, Fields also outlined his vision for a bigger Ford presence in Silicon Valley and his rationale for engineering a job swap between global marketing boss Jim Farley and Ford of Europe chief Stephen Odell.
Speaking of launches, Fields said: "Previously, we had some very compressed acceleration curves for new platform and new product" and new workers. "We had some issues with the Fusion and MKZ launches in Hermosillo," Mexico.
The company learned to recognize problems and "set limits" so it would not have "an excessive amount of vehicles you've produced that ultimately you're going to have to rework."
In 2012, glitches at Hermosillo forced the company to ship hundreds of 2013 MKZs to Flat Rock, Mich., for repairs and inspections. Ford learned to work more closely with suppliers, bringing them into the launch process earlier and having them on location at the factory for frank reviews of major issues, he said.
Fields said he had spent most of his first 100 days as CEO internally, visiting the company's far-flung operations around the world and listening to employees.
He has been a frequent visitor to Ford's small Silicon Valley office.
"We opened an office about three years ago, small office. We are expanding significantly," he said. "We'll talk about this probably in January. We'll move into a much bigger facility."
Fields says he wants Ford to be "part of the community" in Silicon Valley and not simply "some transactional company that wants to get a little bit of the technology" as Ford gets deeper into technologies such as the connected car.
Ford also needs to draw on the Silicon Valley talent pool to gain specific sorts of expertise "because in some cases, we don't have some of that talent," he said.
Regarding the recently announced job swap moving Farley to Cologne, Germany, to run Ford of Europe and Odell to Dearborn, Mich., for the global marketing job, Fields said both will bring timely expertise to their jobs.
"In Jim's case, given where we are with our European transformation plan, it's about product, brand and cost," he said. "When you look at the products we're producing, Jim's expertise is very well-placed at this point in time. Stephen brings a wealth of global marketing and sales experience."