Wowing industry observers, the Ford Motor Company swept the North American International Auto Show awards winning North American Car of the Year for its Fusion Hybrid sedan and truck of the year for its Transit Connect van. The sweep caps a turnaround for the automaker, whose stock has risen from a $1.50 per share low last year to nearly $12 today. Many are praising Ford's CEO Alan Mulally, an automotive industry outsider who came from Boeing in 2006, for revitalizing the company. Is Mulally the real deal? What risks is he taking to turnaround the company? Business writers wrestle it out:
- Michigan's Savior, hails Daniel Howes at The Detroit News: "Ford is delivering solid quality, an exciting product line, rising U.S. market share and black ink in each region of the world. That's change we'll take here, epicenter of the worst state economy in the nation for a decade running."
- You Can Thank Its New CEO, writes Bill Vlasic at The New York Times. He praises Mulally for moving the company away from trucks and SUVs, shedding jobs, closing factories and running a tighter ship: "All of this is beginning to show up in Ford's bottom line. It reported $1 billion in earnings in the third quarter of 2009, its first profitable quarter in nearly two years."
- Mulally Brought Focus to the Company, writes Brent Snavely at The Detroit Free Press: "As part of Ford's turnaround plans over the past three years, Mulally has pushed Ford to cut costs by eliminating redundant research, development and manufacturing operations. He has reduced the number of vehicle platforms that underlie its cars and lowered labor costs in the U.S., where they had been relatively high. By 2012, Ford expects to produce 10 small vehicles globally off the new Focus platform, which will result in an estimated 2 million annual vehicle sales."
- He's Also Making Very Risky Decisions Douglas McIntyre at 24/7 Wall Street says Ford's big push to sell a "world car," i.e, the Ford Focus compact may backfire: "Ford's risk in building the car in multiple markets is that the markets have multiple tastes. One hurdle that the "world car" efforts has always faced is that what buyers in the US want may be very different from what they want in Italy, Germany, or India. Fuel efficiency may also be overrated although that seems impossible today. Gas prices are relatively high around the world. but fossil fuel supply and demand have been cyclical over the last several decades and gas prices may come down again. Many car buyers still like the rumble and performance of a big engine."