Almost 30 months after Alan R. Mulally left Boeing (BA) to become chief executive of Ford Motor (F), it's still easy to peg him as an industry outsider. Talking to Wall Street analysts in November, Mulally described the debut of the tiny, fuel-sipping Ford Ka at the "Paris Air Show" when he meant the "Paris Motor Show." Earlier this year, Mulally showed how he'd tried to stop appending an airplane doodle to his signature, but struggled to ink a car instead. "Rats. I still haven't got the car down," he said, in the "aw shucks" Kansas delivery that has become as familiar in Detroit as his …show more content…
That Mulally, 63, is the only Big Three CEO who hasn't begged Washington for money is evidence that Ford is better positioned than General Motors (GM) and Chrysler to survive and even prosper. So is the fact that Consumer Reports this month recommended 70% of Ford's vehicles, vs. 19% of GM's and none of Chrysler's. The danger is that forces beyond Mulally's control will wash away the progress he has made so far. Mulally, whose optimism can verge on corny, won't countenance negativity. "It's the toughest environment I've ever seen," he says. "But we will make it through if we stick to the plan."
A HISTORY OF "ORGAN REJECTION"
When Mulally was tapped as Ford CEO in the spring of 2006, reaction inside the company ranged from suspicion to outrage. What did an airplane guy know about the car business? "There were lots of raised eyebrows," recalls Bill Ford. The management team was particularly rattled, especially those who were hoping to fill the job themselves. One by one they