By on October 19, 2013

ford-ceo-alan-mulally-china-lincolnjpg-894a92e3f2c9121aThe rumor mill has been grinding away as of late regarding the possible return of Ford CEO Alan Mulally to helm either one of two of Seattle’s many economic engines: Microsoft and Boeing. In the face of these rumors, Mulally has opted not to dispel the rampant speculation.

Reuters was  among those in attendance at an automotive conference in Wuhan, China, where Mulally’s response to being asked whether he was directly or indirectly approached by either company to take the wheel was, “I love serving Ford.” He added that there were no changes to the plan laid out for Ford to find a successor to the third longest serving CEO when he steps down at the end of 2014, though Reuters did report that the auto maker may be open to an earlier departure should Mulally accept an offer elsewhere.

Since taking over Ford in 2006, Mulally helped steady the then-troubled company through his One Ford plan, which led to the sale of acquired brands — including Aston Martin and Volvo — to bring the focus back upon the Ford and Lincoln product lines. In turn, Mulally’s Ford was the only auto maker to avoid the pitfalls and bailouts experienced by Chrysler and General Motors during the Great Recession’s early days in late 2008.

With Microsoft’s market price still stagnant a decade on, and Boeing’s own woes with the 787 Dreamliner, either company could possibly benefit should the right offer approach his desk, especially if hand-delivered by his senior contacts in both companies to his home in Seattle.

Of course, when asked if he were open to a new executive post upon the end of his term at Ford, Mulally laughed and only had three words for the reporter: “I don’t know.”

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57 Comments on “Ford CEO Mulally To Head Boeing Or Microsoft Soon?...”


  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    No matter where he decides to go, he remains a legend in his own time.

  • avatar
    catachanninja

    Despite driving a Nissan Altima I’ve generally been a blue oval guy most my life and I mostly liked the direction the company took with Mulally at the helm. My only knock was how hard he made it to get a truck that could function as a daily for under 30k that’s still somewhat pleasant to drive.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    Allan, Sergio of Fix it again tony and Ghosn all three of them do have a very good vision.
    Can’t denied his vision at least he did avoided dire situations as the other two had to go thru. Chpt 11 ain’t a very good word at all.

  • avatar
    jz78817

    “In the face of these rumors, Mulally has opted not to dispel the rampant speculation.”

    this isn’t as significant as it might seem. People like him often *can’t* make any substantive comments about questions like these, or even something that could be misinterpreted a certain way. The wrong words from a BSD can do amusing things to a company’s stock price…

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      The prospect of him leaving the helm at Ford, should send shudders within Ford and shivers throughout the industry, even if nothing is said until it’s all over but the crying.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        I’m not sure I agree… the biggest thing that needed fixing at Ford was the corporate culture. I think by now he’s probably fixed as much as a guy at the top can. Which isn’t to say Ford is totally fixed, mind, but I’d wager the current issues are mostly attributable to the near-collapse of 2008-2011.

        So long as the people under him and his successor stick with the program, the company shouldn’t go off the rails. Assuming Mark Fields does get the big job, it’s important to note that he’s been with the company for a fairly long time and was close enough to Mulally to “get the picture.”

        I’d rather see that happen than some arrogant Akerson-type who knows little about the business.

        • 0 avatar
          Silvy_nonsense

          “So long as the people under him and his successor stick with the program, the company shouldn’t go off the rails.”

          I hope Ford stays the course. Mulally had Boeing Commercial Airplanes humming when he was in charge of that division. After he left, things started falling apart pretty quickly. Mulally had the discipline to keep everyone accountable and as soon as he left and the other execs realized nobody was keeping tabs on them, things got weird fast.

          In defense of post-Mulally Boeing, they did create the 787, which is sort of the Ferrari of commercial airplanes – its good looking, sought after, expensive, lightweight, frequently in the shop for unscheduled maintenance and catches fire.

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            I think one possible weakness he had/has is that running Ford is both very similar to yet completely different from running Boeing Commercial Airplanes. In terms of how day-to-day operations are run, they’re pretty similar. Development has product planning, engineers, and suppliers working on the next new thing. Production is building products and sending them out for delivery.

            The *markets,* on the other hand, are totally different. Boeing CA has basically one* competitor, EADS (AirBus.) And both Boeing and AirBus seem to be segmenting their product lines to not overlap each other too much. Boeing has no A380, Airbus has no 787. So with e.g. the 787, Boeing can slip the schedule all they want and their customers can’t really go away since AirBus has nothing to offer. However if Ford tried to slip the Fusion for two years, they’ve got Honda/Toyota/Chevy/Dodge/Buick/Hyundai/Kia/etc. ready, willing, and able to take the business.

            You can’t develop an airliner like you would a car; the consequences of field failures are too dire. You can’t run an automotive development program like you would an airliner; you need to ship product somewhere close to on-time because you’ve long since stopped shipping the product it’s replacing. I mean, deliveries of the Cherokee are a couple months late and look how people are screaming.

            * Bombardier and Embraer don’t play in the wide-body jet market (yet) and the Russians don’t seem to have wide distribution outside of the former Soviet bloc…

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          jz78817, the global auto industry is too dynamic and ever-changing a business for Mulally’s successor to simply “stick with the program.”

          Mulally possesses an instinct that allows him to develop a strategy based on anticipated outcomes. Not many CEOs share that.

          My point is that when Mulally decides to leave Ford, his successor needs to see more than just “the picture”. That successor also needs to anticipate future changes in the industry and stay ahead of them.

          One thing Ford is doing to stay ahead is to expand the best-selling F-series line.

          I don’t believe that anyone anticipated that at the other manufacturers, but Mulally must have sensed that expanding the F-series line would address everything the competition brings to market, now and for the next 5 years.

          It’s entirely possible that my next truck in 2015 may be a four-door 4X4 Atlas variant with the 6.2 gas motor, instead of another Tundra 5.7.

          So Mulally’s vision does intersect with my own life’s wants and needs for a truck.

  • avatar
    James2

    Why would he go back to Boeing. They bypassed him twice to hire a CEO (much to their detriment), even though he is certainly the right man for the job. Microsoft would be more of a challenge, to get the world’s stupidest company IMO to get its act together.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Based on how awful the products have become, I’m going to say Microsoft is a dysfunctional company and it would need a leader of Mulally’s caliber in order to continue as an Independent company in the long term. I never would have thought Sun Microsystems, an IT major, would go away but it did; its conceivable Microsoft is going down the same path.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I guess he wants to bail out before all the backlash from the Ford infatuation with turbos and double clutch running gear begin as the years pass and warranties expire.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    “to bring the focus back upon the Ford and Lincoln product lines”

    What Focus on Lincoln? Besides raiding the alphabet for more letters they haven’t really done anything for Lincoln.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree, under his tenure Lincoln BECAME Mercury. From what I read over the years, the only reason Lincoln wasn’t euthanized was at the intervention of the Ford family. I doubt the brand will change until his departure if at all. Incidentally, our man drove an Lexus LS prior to coming to Ford. Since Ford offers nothing like it, I wonder what he’s driving now?

      “But Lexus (Mulally drove a LS430 before coming to Ford) still outsells Lincoln three to one.”

      http://chiefexecutive.net/ceo-of-the-year-alan-mulally-the-road-ahead

      • 0 avatar
        Silvy_nonsense

        Lincoln was already Mercury when Mulally came aboard. In 2006, Lincoln’s line up was a thousand year old but well loved land yacht, a boring, re-bodied Ford sedan and SUV and an OK but nothing special large SUV. That doesn’t exactly add up to an iconic brand that sits at the top of the luxury heap.

        Lincoln has been given minimum attention and investment for the last 20 years. Let’s not blame Mulally for a situation he inherited.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’ll agree by 2005 the Nasser/Bill Ford era neglect was showing and the near bankruptcy of the period certainly didn’t help, and again this is my perception based on what I read over the years, I don’t think Alan ever saw it in the One Ford strategy and thus far hasn’t invested much money or time into building the brand. Holy run on sentence Batman!

          Alan probably approaches it from a dollars and sense angle, I’ve read to bring a model to market from scratch is will run you at least a billion dollars. I doubt it cost nearly as much to design the 61 Conti in its time or the Mark Series in the 70s, but the truth is its just extremely expensive to give Lincoln its own dedicated/near dedicated models. I’m not sure what the solution would be there, maybe Alan’s successor could shake up the industry and find ways to drastically reduce development costs?

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            A rear drive Lincoln Mark based on the new S550 Mustang platform would be a great place to start. The ’61 Lincoln was a 4-door Thunderbird, nothing really unique there

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Yet people still talk about it and know what it is fifty years later. Does anyone remember the four door T-bird on which it was based?

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            There was no 4-door Thunderbird in ’61 The Lincoln Continental was built on the Thunderbird platform by adding two doors. The point was you can make a great car out of a standard platform with a little creative ingenuity or you can make a Lincoln that looks like a Ford and no one will buy it

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            “Alan probably approaches it from a dollars and sense angle, I’ve read to bring a model to market from scratch is will run you at least a billion dollars. I doubt it cost nearly as much to design the 61 Conti in its time or the Mark Series in the 70s,”

            When the 1986 Taurus was unveiled, a lot of talk was generated about how Ford spent $6bn to develop it.

            “but the truth is its just extremely expensive to give Lincoln its own dedicated/near dedicated models.”

            I don’t think it needs all dedicated models. But Lincoln needs at least one car you can’t find in a Ford showroom. And the rest of the line-up can share platforms but needs to clearly stand apart from the Blue Oval lineup. Production issues aside, the MKz is a good start. It looks and feels almost nothing like the Fusion, outside or in. You can’t say that about the MKS, MKX, or previous MKZ.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree with your points Lie2Me, innovation is key. I also wasn’t aware there wasn’t a Thunderbird sedan on those year, I was aware though there was one for a period in either the mid to late sixties as my former tutor used to talk about owning one new.

            @Jz

            I’m not fammilar with the new one other than from TTAC so I can’t speak to it, although i agree something unique you can’t get from Ford might fit the bill. Personally I’d advocate for a model about the size of Zephyr now, but one that could be offered in sedan or coupe/conv, something flexible like what the Fox platform was in its time.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            The 4-door T-Bird was built between ’67-’71. Ironically it became the basis for the two door Lincoln Mark III, one of the most popular Lincolns ever, so it can be done if Ford wants to, but I don’t believe they really do

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            What became the original 4-door ’61 Continental was a two door coupe intended to be the next gen Thunderbird. Members of the Ford family thought it was too nice to be a Ford and it became a Lincoln, AFTER two doors were added to the 123″ wheelbase by using rear hinges. It was ’65 when the Continental was stretched to 126″ for more leg room, and the coach doors were retained because they were so popular.

          • 0 avatar

            The story of the ’61 Continental is somewhat confused because of designers trying to take credit.

            Yes, there is a story that one of Elwood Engel’s proposals for the ’61 Thunderbird was rejected but then Robert Macnamara, who was president of Ford, saw the clay model and supposedly said, “Make it a four door and call it a Lincoln”.

            But, as retired Ford and Lincoln designer Howard Payne told me, “that’s the way Elwood Engel told the story. Of course, he headed the studio.”

            Payne said that he and John Orfe did a model that was at least as influential on the final Continental as Engel’s T-Bird.

            Car designing is a collaborative process made up of creative people, some of whom have substantial egos. So when there’s a hit, there is no shortage of designers willing to take credit.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          But I think we can all admit that a 2007-2012 MKZ (with the 3.5V6) is a hell of the deal on the used market if you want a really luxurious Fusion. ;-)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Value buy of the year, earlier in the week in a Piston Slap post I was crunching auction figures with Dolorean if you’d like to see some data.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            It’s even a performance value too. Car and Driver got an AWD model through the quarter mile in 13 sec back when the previous generation was new.

  • avatar
    pacificpom2

    As long as he doesn’t make Boeings that ugly, thing will be fine. Microsoft products will be safe as their look is determined by the consumer.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Thanks for the hearty laugh friend, Microsoft hasn’t given its customers what they want for years. Windows 8 was so bad they had to do a quickie update and from what I understand it was a poor hack and the functionality still isn’t truly there. Ditto on Office 2007+, people just tolerated it I know few who “liked” it.

      The truly incomprehensible thing to me as an IT professional is why you *force* a shell designed for tablets onto your entire customer base. What universe do they live in if they think IT depts and ordinary folks everywhere have touchscreen hardware to upgrade from an earlier version of Windows or suddenly will just pitch ten years worth of traditional product for OMG I have to have a Surface!. A fail of absolutely epic proportions.

      If I could have gone to those design meetings I would have offered the Metro shell in a Tablet edition and kept the existing, paid for, Vista shell for the rest… this is 101 level thinking folks. Microsoft thinks we need to go after Ipad customers which is forward thinking and I agree those toys aren’t going away, but giving the finger to your *current* customer base and forcing something that makes no sense to them on their non-touch hardware is a recipe for disaster. In twenty years it would not surprise me if both Microsoft and Apple are gone because both failed to keep innovating after their founders departed. The IT majors of the future will be Google, Oracle, and brands to be named later.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        “Thanks for the hearty laugh friend, Microsoft hasn’t given its customers what they want for years.”

        which is why they sell hundreds of millions of Windows licenses a year. And all of those Xboxes. And all of those Sharepoint and Office licenses. You’re just one of those myopic quasi-geeks who thinks your opinion is shared by the masses writ large.

        “Windows 8 was so bad they had to do a quickie update and from what I understand it was a poor hack and the functionality still isn’t truly there.”

        I’ve been running the preview of 8.1 for a while now. I didn’t really have a problem with 8 on my desktop because I don’t curl up in the corner and cry whenever someone moves my cheese.

        “Ditto on Office 2007+, people just tolerated it I know few who “liked” it.”

        Statistically, the number of people you “know” is close enough to zero to safely be ignored. Office < 2007 had a huge problem in that an enormous number of feature requests were for things that had been in Office for years, people just couldn't *find* them. Again, myopic quasi-geek.

        "If I could have gone to those design meetings I would have offered the Metro shell in a Tablet edition"

        Metro isn't a shell. and besides, Metro apps work *perfectly fine* with a mouse and keyboard.

        "kept the existing, paid for, Vista shell for the rest…"

        Um, hate to tell you, but the "Vista shell" is present and accounted for in Windows 8 just by clicking the goddamned "Desktop" tile on the start screen.

        "this is 101 level thinking folks."

        Bull. This is little more than arrogant "common sense is whatever agrees with what I already believe" thinking.

        • 0 avatar
          wumpus

          To understand Microsoft’s success, you have to understand that they make sure they take care of developers (cue monkey dance) and their real customers, IT departments. Users can go pound sand. As long as the developers make apps and the IT departments willingly lock themselves in, Microsoft will simply rake in the Billions year after year.

          Security designed to fall over at the drop of a hat? No problem, Microsoft will make it ever easier for the IT shop to reimage your hard drive. Windows 8 is designed to remove every feature you bought that second monitor for and make sure all screens fit on a phone screen? Just suck it, user: MS is making the IT department happy and doesn’t care.

        • 0 avatar

          Fords vs Chevys anyone?

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            Apple fans and Top Gear fans routinely trade places for the title of “Most Annoying yet Least Knowledgeable.”

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          I’ve been an unhappy Microsoft customer for over 25 years.

          Your argument is missing that Microsoft does not sell directly to consumers and barely knows how (except for the XBox). Their bread and butter comes from selling to OEMs and institutions, and those are the customers who can influence the design of the product, sort-of. Direct sales to consumers are small potatoes.

          Microsoft is TRYING to change direction toward toward being more consumer-oriented, since they missed the last 7 years of explosive growth on mobile, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

          Also, their attempts to leverage their customers onto 100% Microsoft solutions has been an irritation for my entire career. I’d use Microsoft a lot more if they’d drop the “our way or the highway” crap on the technical level.

          But, yeah, they’ve never sold me what *I* want, because I’m not the customer. And the average consumer doesn’t get a choice of Microsoft or not, because their OEM or employer has already made the choice for them as part of a big bundle that they can “take or leave”… You shouldn’t confuse giving the CUSTOMER what they want with giving the CONSUMER what they want – it’s not even close to bring the same thing in real life.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Good point except their OEM customers aren’t selling the computers they make loaded with Windows 8. This does not set well with the OEMs stuck with PCs they can’t move. Now the real customers (OEMS) are certainly going back at MS to do something about it. The ultimate customer (general public) speak with their wallets and they don’t like what MS thinks is good for them. The general public ultimately has the power

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Good arguments Luke42. I agree Microsoft has always had their hooks into OEMs and IT depts because that’s where the constant cash flow is located. I’ll also agree its irritating on a technical level to be forced into using all of their technology if you want to use just one of their products (ie SQL Server requires Windows, Oracle or MySQL are cross platform) but this has always been their model. For many years the consumer had no choice but to use Microsoft products, but now they have several mainstream choices whether they realize it or not. So if we use your argument of customer vs consumer, I as a customer am completely mystified by MS’s half assed attempts to cater to a consumer. They clearly aren’t fooling anyone and the consumer has choices they didn’t have even five years ago. Upsetting your customer volume in order to try to win consumer volume is foolish and simply serves to unimpress both groups. Although I am a peon in the chain of command of my employers I have been staunchly advocating for us to explore other mainstream technologies in our product development and maintenance simply because I believe the wheels are coming off in Redmond.

        • 0 avatar
          zerofoo

          Sorry guys, you’re both wrong.

          Yes, MS is selling tons of Win8 licenses. And most of those corporate license sales have downgrade rights. Bank of America bought TONS of windows 8 licenses and is still wrapping their heads around windows 7 for deployment. Do they really count as windows 8 sales if they are really deploying windows 7 or *GASP* windows XP?

          Microsoft is the GM of software. Their problem is their enterprise business is slowly being erased by linux/mobile/cloud offerings.

          My company has spent the last 5 years ripping out microsoft Exchange, SQL, and Remote Desktop servers – all replaced by cloud/open-source services.

          Unless the next leader of Microsoft figures out how to get into Mobile and Cloud computing in a big way, Microsoft will be a much smaller company in 10 years.

          Unfortunately for Microsoft many years of brain drain in their ranks may be a terminal disease at this point.

          My prediction – a big bank account will keep them around as a zombie company for a long time,but the business/computing world will move on without them.

          -ted

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’m happy to be wrong as you have succinctly expressed my thoughts much better than I did, +1000 sir.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            + Another thousand for expressing what’s happening at MS so perfectly. If MS doesn’t want to move forward in step with the rest of the world, the rest of the world will just work around them slowly reducing their importance to GM’s late-80s new car line-up

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Windows 8 is the equivalent to the Cadillac Cimarron with a side order of Yugo. Windows 8 makes Vista look good. Let’s hope they never make a car as useless and out of touch as windows 8

        • 0 avatar
          th009

          At least it’s a real OS underneath. Unlike iOS.

          • 0 avatar
            zerofoo

            iOS is based on Mac OS, which is based on BSD, which is based on UNIX.

            Seems like a pretty good family tree to me.

            Windows is based on an NT kernel developed by Dave Cutler formerly of DEC. That Microkernel design was adopted by Microsoft and…..no one else.

            Oh wait – Minix has a microkernel…that’s a pretty popular OS right?

            What exactly do you consider a “real” OS?

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            “Windows is based on an NT kernel developed by Dave Cutler formerly of DEC. That Microkernel design was adopted by Microsoft and…..no one else.”

            if by “no one else” you mean “Apple,” you’re correct. OS X/iOS uses the Mach microkernel, with bits of the FreeBSD userspace cobbled around it. Besides, NT stopped being a microkernel as of NT 4.0. Meaning, 1996. Nevermind the fact that QNX is a pure microkernel, and QNX runs on a hell of a lot of devices.

            And before you poo-pooh Dave Cutler, when he was at DEC he was largely responsible for VMS, which is considered to be one of the most robust operating systems out there.

          • 0 avatar
            th009

            A real OS has a process model, and a file system, not just a bunch of sandboxes that cannot talk to each other. Even copy and paste was an afterthought for a certain OS, in spite of its fruity logo.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    No one can ever gainsay what the man accomplished for Ford. His purported choices are interesting. Microsoft is destined to an almost inevitable gradual decline no matter what. Does Boeing need him? We shall see.

  • avatar
    CoffeeLover

    Please, not Mark Fields. His biggest priority is himself. Mullaly is old school and puts the job first.

    • 0 avatar

      If you respect Mulally, then why disrespect his choice for a successor? It’s pretty clear that Mulally has been grooming Fields to be his replacement. At this point, Mulally holds enough stock in Ford that the company’s fortunes after he retires will still be personally relevant to him. He’s not going to leave the company in hands that will destroy his legacy.

      I used to think that Mark Fields was a suit with a nice haircut, but if you talk to him away from the cameras, you find that he knows the car biz.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        though it has happened before; Iacocca readily admits he screwed up by pushing for Bob Eaton to succeed him instead of Lutz.

        I often wonder how Chrysler would have turned out if Lutz ran the place. I’m pretty sure they would still have had to pursue a global tie-up to survive, but I think Lutz knows the Germans well enough that he wouldn’t have been rooked by Jürgen Schrempp.

  • avatar
    chris724

    Boeing has been based in Chicago since 2001.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Who does the Ford family, and their class B stock, favor for the next CEO?

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Mulally leaving would be a psychologiacal blow to Ford as everyone there has put significant faith in his leadership. From my time spent there, his leadership doesn’t come with gimmickery, he just finds ways to keep people focused on a target, and gets them to work together as a team. The talent has always been there, it was about getting all that talent to work in one direction.

    Of course, good leadership is always easier said than done. Few can execute it as well as he.


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