By on June 7, 2007

07annualmtg_95232.jpgLast year, the Ford Motor Co. lost $12.7b. The company is carrying $188b in debt. Its bonds are non-investment grade. It’s got to the point where less than one in ten American analysts recommends the former blue chip stock. In fact, by any measure of financial health, Ford is knocking on death’s door. So why did Alan R. Mulally leave Boeing to heal The Blue Oval– aside from the $45m plus transferred into his bank account? Mulally is an engineer, a man who can’t resist taking something apart and trying to put it back together better. Or, if you prefer, Humpty Dumpty.

Mulally is looking at a lot of broken eggs. Ford’s dealer network is obese, its product line lags, UAW negotiations loom, healthcare costs outpace kudzu and the corporate culture is a capitalistic tribute to the Kremlin. But to an engineer, all things are simple. To solve even the most complex problem, just break things down into their smaller components, then repair, reengineer and reassemble. Simply put, simplify! 

That is, after all, how Ford made its bones. Crazy Henry designed simple cars that were easy to operate and maintain. He built them on simple assembly lines, with simple jobs that were easy to master.

Mulally understands how things work (or don't, as the case maybe.) Upon installation, he called for a company-wide audit to find ways to cut costs and complexity. Those auditors are just now sending in their reports.

They’re discovering (surprise!) that Ford wastes an obscene amount of money on unnecessary duplication. For example, The Blue Oval builds its products on no less than 30 engineering platforms. In contrast, Honda has six platforms and Audi has four. Sure, these companies don’t manufacture a vast variety of cars. But they make money and Ford doesn’t.  But wait! There’s [lots] more! No two of the vehicles Ford builds upon these 30 platforms share seat rails, springs, hood hinges and God knows what else.

Last January, Ford announced Sync, a voice-command system for phones and MP3 players. The company will start rolling out the new (soon-to-be-obsolete but that’s another story) technology in the fall– but not on Volvos or Land Rovers. The system is incompatible with Volvo and Land Rover’s existing electronics– even though the Swedish and British marques haven’t really been “foreign” for over a decade. 

Analysts call it Balkanization. Ford has four disparate operating units around the world, each with its own costly management team, research and development staff and production facilities. This wouldn’t be a problem if they shared, which they don’t.

No wonder Mulally recently read his execs the Riot Act: "There's no global company I know of that can succeed with the level of complexity we have at Ford." 

Mulally knows that streamlining production and development is like finding money. Audi was formed on this principle; the Volkswagen Group hangs onto the principle like grim death. By the time this century hits its early teens, Audi’s new modular MLP platform will be the one ring to rule them all. 

Lotus is vending their version of a universal platform: Versatile Vehicle Architecture. While not known for mass-production, Lotus is very adept at selling its services, and they’ve had a fair amount of interest in the technology. And why not? Automotive research and development costs are not receding. It costs about $1b to create a new platform, why not do it once or twice, instead of 30 times?

But even as Mulally the engineer strives to simplify Ford’s design, engineering and production process, once again aiming to replicate Toyota’s methodology (as he did at Boeing), Ford’s entrenched bureaucracy is hard at work, striving to keep things comfortably labyrinthine.

"The managers take refuge in the structure when things get tough,” Allan Gilmour, Ford’s now-retired Chief Financial Officer and Vice Chairman told BusinessWeek. “Rather than innovate or try new ideas that seemed risky."   As the popular management expression says, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” One wonders if the engineer in charge of Ford gets it. Perhaps so. Mulally has pow-wowed with Gilmour twice since taking the reins. And Mulally ain’t no dope. 

Last September, Mulally’s underlings told him the Focus loses Ford roughly $3k per sale. "Why haven't you figured out a way to make a profit?" he asked (demanded?). The suits explained that Ford needs to sell lots of Foci to maintain its corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) ratings, AND that the car is made in a high-cost UAW factory. "That's not what I asked," he replied.  

There's an old engineer’s adage: you can have something good, on time or under budget. Pick two. Mulally's about to test the theory’s inverse. When you're out of money and, as your competitors jack-up their existing efficiency, out of time, can you still create something good? The answer is painfully simple.

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49 Comments on “Ford Death Watch 33: Good, Fast, Cheap or None of the Above?...”


  • avatar
    miked

    That’s ridiculous, they’ll dilute their brand’s core with badge engineering, but they won’t save money where it isn’t seen by the customer. 30 platforms and not sharing parts like seat rails? WTF? It hopeless, they can’t turn it around now. I always held out hope that someone would wise up and start slashing costs, but if they’re doing things like this, the only thing that would work would be firing all the executives to get rid of this culture, and we know that won’t happen.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Let me take a stab at answering the question on why Foci lose money: we need to give away these cars at a loss through rebates while the UAW has us by the balls making them. They should move production of these cars, arguably one of the better cars for the times they make today, OVERSEAS and send a message to gettlefinger that things have to change.

    I’m astounded at the level of debt Ford has, how much longer until it’s over?

  • avatar
    Glenn 126

    A friend just got done leasing a Mercury Montego, and I tried encouraging him to get into a Toyota Prius since he drives so much for work. He decided to just “go with the flow”, went to the Ford dealer, and got himself a new Mercury Montego.

    Then, last Sunday when he told me about it, he was boasting about how he got a Z plan (thought nobody in the family works at Ford), a couple thousand on rebate, a 1.9% interest rate loan from Ford Finance AND was going to pay less than his prior lease. He told me that he told the dealer – wait, it’s almost the end of the month. I’ll wait until June 1st and come back. They promised him to sweeten the deal if things changed and – shock, amazing – did so. He ended up with 0% interest and they threw in an extended warrantee, which netted him an even lower monthly outgo (yeah, I know, the profit just went up for the dealer in that deal and down for FoMoCo).

    The trouble is (and I didn’t bother tellimg my friend) – now he’s stuck with a Ford product, and when (not if) they go “bust”, his resale value is going to be about where a Studebaker was in 1967, the year after they left the business. Nil.

    Plus, if one pundit’s crystal ball is anything close to being right, and gas DOES skyrocket to $20 a gallon within the next 5 years, he’s doubly screwed, and won’t be able to visit the sick and elderly. He’s my pastor at church. Not much use to anyone if he cannot get from his rural house to church, or to visit the sick, eh?

  • avatar
    jaje

    Supposedly Ford loses $5k for every car sold where GM / Cerebus lose $1k. The Imports actually make money.

  • avatar
    daro31

    But wait! There’s [lots] more! No two of the vehicles Ford builds upon these 30 platforms share seat rails, springs, hood hinges and God knows what else.

    As a quality technician for a supplier of HVAC blower motors to Ford I can tell you that we had at last count 23 different motors for Ford cars. As I used to have to run a PPAP (Production Part Approval Process) for all of these part numbers every time we made the slightest change I used to ask myself, “How many different ways is there to push air”? I am sure th average guy driving a car has no idea howe much non-value added work goes into a car for something as minor as changing the black paint supplier on a motor case. Then multiply it all x 30 x the number of components in a car and see what you get.

  • avatar
    whitenose

    Apparently this runs pretty deep, going back a half century. Read Thomas Bonsall’s book on the Edsel, deeply fascinating. There’s a story in there about a ex-GM engineering person trying to bring platform and parts sharing to Ford. Ford executives at the time liked the idea but failed to implement it due to internal politics (ironically, the chief engineer had too much power). Later, they figured out badge engineering, but apparently never got into parts sharing across platforms.

  • avatar
    theSane

    daro31 – I have a friend who has had trouble with vendors changing parts on him without approval. They would change things like a DC converter to one with a higher capacity rating, but he later finds out it has a higher failure rate because its manufacture was a lower quality. Or they would change the heads on screws and all of the engineers in the field would have to buy new tools to service the part.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Instead of the offer to everybody buyouts, Ford would have been well suited to lay off 90% of management.

    The reason there are so few shared parts is the complete lack of central command or put another way, the rediculous management overlap. Each hand in the pot drives more change.

    At the design concept stage every part is carryover from some other program. Then specific packaging/functional/manufacturing/tuning requirements start to drive little changes. This touches off a never ending sea of change that continues into and beyond J1. The worst part about this is that it causes all part design to start from a compromised position relative to what the final design becomes. In other words, morphing a once common part into something completely different costs much more than just designing something different from the start and yeilds an inferior part as well.

    Someone at Ford needs to have the authority and balls to lay out a vehicle design, define its attributes/characteristics/functionality and see that plan to completion. No last minute vehicle dynamics changes, no complete redesigns for manufacturing parts already signed off by manufacturing, no last minute requirements driven by some marketing initiative to make giant trucks more appealing to sub 5′ women or add optional 23″ rims for the Focus, etc.

  • avatar

    I was recently talking to a Ford designer from way back, just after WWII. He was in design (styling) in the engineering department, and came up with something simple and effective. His boss liked the idea, but the design department couldn’t stand the idea of an idea like that coming from engineering, so they produced their own, hugely complicated version, which went into production. That was 50 years ago…talk about entrenched.

    And 40 years ago, the Falcon wagon and Mustang used the same platform. I bet there’s less platform sharing now than there was then.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Ford was really the class act of the Big 3 (yeah maybe that is being minor league champ) until Nasser took over in the late 90s. He managed to screw up just about everything over there in a remarkably short time.

  • avatar
    durailer

    Great article. Now that the stats are landing in Mulally’s hands, we’ll see if he’s got what it takes to turn things around.

    I’m curious, do the 30 platforms include Mazda, Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover? At least Mazda and Volvo share platforms with Ford.

  • avatar
    Sid Vicious

    Daro,

    Been there done that for the last 15 years or so. Let me guess – Ford forced the change on you to save a penny a motor on paint. And you had to give them 100% of the savings. And you had to eat all the engineering/testing cost associated. No wonder Ford was once again rated last by suppliers.

    To re-state what someone else said here: The domestics are always looking backward and the Japanese are always looking forward.

  • avatar
    pete

    Its kinda weird – having owned five Fords in the past. Learning more about Ford gives me an odd feeling. The sensation is not quite like “there were bandits waiting in the pass you just rode through, but you still got through” but something similar.

    Can anyone comment on how Ford gets so many awards in the latest JD Power initial quality review? Has Ford improved the way it screws its disparate stuff together or is the study itself flawed?

  • avatar
    JSForbes

    I know little about corporate finance, how does that $188 billion in debt compare to other companies?

    This column begs the question: is the root of Ford’s problem the UAW or are they just a convenient excuse for poor management?

  • avatar
    BostonTeaParty

    durailer,
    Land Rover has 4 platforms spread over 5 vehicles, one of which is shared with Ford and Volvo, yes your LR2 is a Focus and S40 all in one!! Jag shares some with Fords elsewhere.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Great artical Michael!

    Audi’s MLP platform is a brilliant concept. With the advancements in metallurgy, the concept takes form! Auto manufacturers would be wise to follow Audi’s lead.

    Maybe Ford should get out of the auto business and compete with Baskin Robbins or something.

  • avatar
    daro31

    Reply to Sid Viscous

    Been there done that for the last 15 years or so. Let me guess – Ford forced the change on you to save a penny a motor on paint. And you had to give them 100% of the savings. And you had to eat all the engineering/testing cost associated. No wonder Ford was once again rated last by suppliers.Sid you obviuosly have been there to.

    Sid, looks like you have been there to, suppliers are dropping like flies, and they say it is due to the uncompetitvness of the import manufacturers; don’t believe it the waste that still goes on with the big 3 is phenomenal. I think that mangement has become so entrenched with the concept of a bottomless pit of money, that they can’t believe they could ever run out. Kind of like government and our taxes.
    I was in management at Ford during the early 80’s, you couldn’t give a car away and we had to turn in one stub of a pencil to get a new one.
    But on the management side with the big guys; life as usual. I had to go to Detroit for a week to work on the Escort program. They give you a $30.00 a day food alowance. Breakfast was provided at the hotel, lunch was provided at the plant so that left $30.00 for supper. Back then $15.00 got you a good steak dinner in Detroit. I didn’t drink so I usually didn’t spend all my allowance and came back with some left over. My superintendant just about fired me, when I handed in my expense report with some cash back. He wanted to know what I was trying to prove, didn’t I know you always overspend. It doesn’t look good at corporate. I had to gove my cash to another guy who overspent and cover some of his receipts. Sorry I was a nieve 25 year old supervisor, who actually thought we were on a cost cutting binge. Never made that mistake again. By the way 27 years later and that superintendant is now a big district manager of a number of plants. See he knew how to play the game didn’t he, and the system rewarded him. Why would he change or get those below him to. It has worked so far.

  • avatar
    Rick Korallus

    My Honda street bike shares the same fog light switch and 6 CD changer as Accords from the same generation/age. The oil drain plug washers in my dirt bike and street bike are the same as what comes on all modern Honda autos. Except for the guts of the oil filter, the shell is the same as on the Insight (the engine oil pressures are different and regulated accordingly). Those are just the ones I have noticed from my own experience with the vehicles.

  • avatar
    Maxwelton

    My Land Rover has TR7 door handles. Er.

    Anyone who has read The Reckoning by Halberstam should not be shocked that nothing has changed in the 20 years since that was written.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    If you dug, what you would find really astounding, is how few of the parts on badge engineered, identical looking vehicles are actually similar enough to have come from the same set of tools.

  • avatar
    NickR

    I’d be curious to know, if you had a clean sheet of paper and were tasked with designing two quite different automobiles, let’s say a 4 door CUV and a 2 door coupe, how many parts could you have in common? I would think that the answer is ‘lots’. Basically everything not seen by the driver (including the engine, assuming they don’t open the hood) as well as many things the driver would see, such as radios, climate control, radio, steering wheel, etc. Really, apart from the obvious (body panels, glass, suspension, and trims items) I would think that, expressed as a percentage of the number of parts, the figure should be fairly high. I don’t when this problem arose. My Mopar friends who restore their own cars can swap almost anything between the A body cars or between the B body cars. I can’t imagine Ford was that different during that era. Anyway, good luck to Ford they will need it.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Mulalley has taken a lot of heat during his short tenure. The truth is that it really will take 5 years before we know whether he’s Ford’s savior.

    The first steps to a turnaround are to understand where you are, where you want to go, and what it takes to get there. At least Mulalley is asking the right questions and gaining a firm understanding of Ford’s challenges, which his predecessors failed at.

    The real question is whether Mulalley has the time to fix Ford before the creditors close in.

  • avatar
    dkulmacz

    Don’t you think your “$188B in debt” statement is a bit of hyperbole? The bulk of that — say maybe $150B — is Ford Credit. The financial services bit. The part that borrows money from one source and lends it to another as a business model. That doesn’t really mean the same thing as most here think it does, I’d wager . . .

  • avatar
    craiggbear

    A senator once said ” A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon we’re talking real money…” Perhaps he was related to a Ford?

    Let’s face it, they ain’t in the green so who cares how deep a hole is…?

  • avatar
    umterp85

    SherbornSean:

    Your comments on Mulalley are fair. He helped to Biong when it was in a similar place. You are correct—he does ask the tough questions—and also appears to have action orientation—and had the –lls to admit the Taurus retirement was a mistake. His commitment to quality is a trait he brought from Boing and it appear to have shown early results as noted in the recently released JD Powers survey.

    You also got to heart of the matter—whether Mulalley has the time to complete his mission….like you, I hope this is the case.

  • avatar
    mike_i_n_mich

    Better late than never? I can tell you Ford is going global ASAP. I never heard of Gothenburg until a year ago and now it feels like a second home, and the engineers there are like life long friends. We’re going to make it.

    And the recent quality ratings were not a fluke. Any team that could engineer 30 platforms and make a profit as long as we did is loaded with talent. Now with the global commonization mandate we will be unstoppable.

  • avatar

    Here’s what I think is odd…Ford does share parts – but it’s the ones they shouldn’t – i.e.: the interior parts (see the “parts bins” criticisms in many TTAC reviews).

    As I recall, the way Chrysler was able to repay the government bailout back in the day was when Lee Iaccoca cut virtually all the platforms at Chrysler and Dodge down to one – the (in)famous K Car. I had one – a Chrysler Laser, which was Chrysler’s badge-engineered version of the Dodge Daytona – both of them K Cars under the (similar) skins. I put 140K miles on that car, and the only problem I had with it was to replace the manual clutch and a set of tires. It was surprisingly rock solid, especially given that it was powered by a 4-cyl. turbo.

    Ford would do well to pick two or three platforms (small/med/large) and build on those. Share every possible part, with the exception of the interiors.

    They’d also do well to quit the badge-engineering game entirely. Ford should return to the philosophy that made them a success in the first place – inexpensive, well made vehicles with few options (at one time you could get the Model T in any color you liked, as long as it was BLACK). Position Mercury as a mid-priced sporty luxury line (or kill it all together) and make Lincolns unique, special and trés expensive.

    I hope Mulalley succeeds. I’d hate to see Ford die. But I’m a big believer in the survival of the fittest. If he can’t shape them up, it’s time for them to go.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    At least Ford doesn’t have the brand madness problem of GM. Mercury cars and trucks are simply high level trim options of Fords, so they should cost little to design and make. GM puts unique sheetmetal on Chevy, Pontiac, Buick and Saturn versions of the same platforms.

    Ford already has all of it’s US cars (except for the ancient fully depreciated Panther) on international platforms shared with Mazda, Volvo and Ford’s international brands. Chrsyler has pretty much none of that and GM is just getting going on it.

    Jaguar and Land Rover should really be sold off or given away to anyone who wants them. Mazda and Volvo are now pretty solidly part of the Ford international engineering and production effort and it would be hard to put through a divorce. The Volvo 5 cylinder engine which started life in the 850 (pre-Ford ownership) now is seeing new life in Ford Europe products and more.

    Ford’s sure has lots of problems, but in some ways they aren’t as messed up as GM and Chrsyler.

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    When you are reactive you always lose. Ford and it's domestic cousins shoot at their existing models (and some competitors) as targets for improvement. If toyota and honda took four years off, this would work. However, while you look at a camry or accord, you are looking at the last generation it is old stuff. It's the one coming at you that will eat your lunch. To say the new ford taurus is better than a camry is to forget that ford will keep the "new taurus" if you count it is already three years old (as a 500) for at least 8 years. Toyota has a new camry this year and will have another before ford can reload on the taurus. By the way non of these camrys are spectacular improvements over their previous generation. They are incremental improvements over 30 years on a four year cycle. So the next model change at toyota and honda will take a superior product (especially in refinement) and bump it a couple of notches. Ford will take a500 with a crude engine and bump it to middle of the pack with a better engine and tranny (after losing gazillions of sales with the old mediocre product that should have never been built with the durotec engine. But hondas and toyotas have had smooth powertrains for at least the last 3 model changes. My friend is buying a new car he sampled the avalon and went to the local ford dealer who called the avalon a "rice burner", Motorcycle slang for a Japanese bike. If this is the worst they can throw at toyota game over.

  • avatar
    Orian

    jthorner,

    The differentiation in sheet metal is much better than just updating the trim and badges and trying to sell it at a higher price. That is the epitome of badge engineering – it doesn’t get worse than that.

    If you sat all three of the Fusion clones side by side, even the average consumer is going to raise an eyebrow.

    Sit a Malibu and a G6 side by side and you can see a distinct difference, even if they are built off the same platform.

    Ford desperately needs to differentiate all three brands quickly with totally different models.

    There is a reason you don’t see much badge engineering in the Asian and European brands that are making profits. They realized it doesn’t work, but platform sharing does.

  • avatar
    Cowbell

    Speaking of badge engineering, in Ford’s new MK cars they show the right and wrong way to do it. The MKX and Ford Edge are almost the exact same vehicle, save the grille and the interior.. On the other hand the MKZ comes with an upgraded engine and different body panels compared to the fusion. Though this could still be considered badge engineering, it is still better differentiation that between the Camry and Lexus ES350 (having the same engine) which most would consider successful cars.

  • avatar
    windswords

    Brad Kozak:
    June 7th, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    “As I recall, the way Chrysler was able to repay the government bailout back in the day was when Lee Iaccoca cut virtually all the platforms at Chrysler and Dodge down to one – the (in)famous K Car. I had one – a Chrysler Laser, which was Chrysler’s badge-engineered version of the Dodge Daytona – both of them K Cars under the (similar) skins. I put 140K miles on that car, and the only problem I had with it was to replace the manual clutch and a set of tires. It was surprisingly rock solid, especially given that it was powered by a 4-cyl. turbo. ”

    I also owned a Laser (1986 – my first new car). In 3 years and 50k miles I only had 2 minor problems with it, one was fixed under warranty. As for the turbos – Chrysler turbos were (and are) some of the most reliable in the business. They still have lots of devotees (and websites) even today. If only the headgaskets were as reliable (they did eventually fix that issue to their credit).

    Actually Chrysler had 3 platforms in the 80’s: the L – Omni/Horizon and all it’s variants; the M – Diplomat/Fury/5th Avenue; and the K in all it’s varieties. Some K’s were so far changed from the original K chasis that they could be best described as a modified K. The original minivan would certainly qualify.

  • avatar
    hltguy

    No matter how one looks at it, $188 billion in debt is the whale in the living room. Simply put Ford will never repay it, and probably has no intention of doing so. Remember that $188 large is not a fixed number, but could grow, with interest cost etc. Add to the fact that Ford is not even covering their existing expenses with their incoming cash, makes for a ugly situation. Add the fuel price situation in this country, the slowing of the US economy, health care costs rising, labor negotiations coming up,Ford already has hocked everything they own except the soda machine at the Ford Museum – in order to get the cash to operate, Ford not having a new vehicle hitting the market again soon, the aging of its existing product line (did anyone notice the absolute dreadful sales numbers of the 500/Taurus in May 2007? Only a few hundred sold, something like one new one sold for every six or seven dealers for the month. Also, then the reports of the labor (UAW workers) reaction to the engine factory in Cleveland, causing Ford to apparently spend millions and millions of dollars of overtimes costs just to get a normal work week of production out of the troops. Is there anything positive to report about the late great american car company?

  • avatar
    ronin

    Mulally is not an engineer. He is a manager, an executive.

    This reminds me of the media often referring to Bill Gates as a techie nerd. He is nothing of the kind, never was a techie. He was and is a business manager.

    Wait, at least Mulally maybe once upon a time was an engineer while of course Gates never was. Still referring to any of them as something they are not as though that might influence what they do is more of a journalistic cliche, wouldn’t you say?

  • avatar
    brownie

    Though this could still be considered badge engineering, it is still better differentiation that between the Camry and Lexus ES350 (having the same engine) which most would consider successful cars.

    I personally believe that to the general car-buying public, exterior and interior differentiation is far more important than whether the engine is the same. The Lexus ES interior is SO much nicer than a Camry, and the exterior different enough, that the few ES owners I know don’t even think about it in relation to the Camry – they don’t care about the guts. But if they were thinking about buying a Mercury they would definitely care that no one could tell it apart from a Ford from the outside.

  • avatar
    skor

    Let's be realistic, Ford is DOA. One thing is for certain: there is no stopping them; the Japanese will soon be here. 

  • avatar
    brownie

    This reminds me of the media often referring to Bill Gates as a techie nerd. He is nothing of the kind, never was a techie. He was and is a business manager.

    Not true at all. Bill Gates was a serious programmer. For example:

    http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000862.html

    Admittedly that is a fairly trivial application. For something more substantial (for its time) check out:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/05/15/could_bill_gates_write_code/

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    Bill Gates is too a techie nerd, and actively wrote code between 1968 (when he was 13) and 1989.

    From his Wikipedia page:

    Gates excelled in elementary school, particularly in mathematics and the sciences. At thirteen he enrolled in the Lakeside School, Seattle’s most exclusive preparatory school. When he was in the eighth grade, the school mothers used proceeds from Lakeside’s rummage sale to buy an ASR-33 teletype terminal and a block of computer time on a General Electric computer.[10] Gates took an interest in programming the GE system in BASIC and was excused from math classes to pursue his interest. After the Mothers Club donation was exhausted he and other students sought time on other systems, including DEC PDP minicomputers. One of these systems was a PDP-10 belonging to Computer Center Corporation, which banned the Lakeside students for the summer after it caught them exploiting bugs in the operating system to obtain free computer time.

    At the end of the ban, the Lakeside students (Gates, Paul Allen, Ric Weiland, and Kent Evans) offered to find bugs in CCC’s software in exchange for free computer time. Rather than use the system via teletype, Gates went to CCC’s offices and studied source code for various programs that ran on the system, not only in BASIC but FORTRAN, LISP, and machine language as well. The arrangement with CCC continued until 1970, when it went out of business. The following year Information Sciences Inc. hired the Lakeside students to write a payroll program in COBOL, providing them not only computer time but royalties as well. At age 14, Gates also formed a venture with Allen, called Traf-O-Data, to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor. That first year he made $20,000, however when his age was discovered business slowed.[14][15]

    According to Gates, people at Microsoft often did more than one job during the early years; whoever answered the phone when an order came in was responsible for packing and mailing it. Gates oversaw the business details, but continued to write code as well. In the first five years, he personally reviewed every line of code the company shipped, and often rewrote parts of it as he saw fit.[23]

    Gates’ role at Microsoft for most of its history has been primarily a management and executive role. However, he was an active software developer in the early years, particularly on the company’s programming language products. (See also: DONKEY.BAS) He has not officially been on a development team since working on the TRS-80 Model 100 line, but he wrote code as late as 1989 that shipped in the company’s products.[41]

  • avatar
    ruffneck858

    Very interesting article yesterday regarding Ford…they were actually ranked higher in initial quality than toyota by JD Power and Associates…I was really surprised…anyone see that? They are still in dire straights obviously….but’s its nice to hear they are finally getting their act together. Is it a case of too little too late???….should be interesting. They also just revised their Ford Edge sales projections up to 120,000 from 100,000. By the way…the quality rankings are HUGE and unexpected news…where is the editorial TTAC???

  • avatar
    hltguy

    The JD Power quality rankings were good news for Ford, but keep in mind that is “initial quality”, how the vehicle stands up over time is the real key, not to mention the resale value. The 2.5 cars have horrible resale values compared to Toyota, Honda etc, and that matter is not going away soon. Toyota, Honda etc have such enormous resources and profits, they will continue to produce new models on a regular basis, have high quality and high resale values. Ford and GM may have better quality now than years back but they are buried in red ink, not just a one or two year amount of debt but GM and Ford combined have over $600 BILLION dollars in debt. Think about that over $600 BILLION dollars in debt. One more time over $600 BILLION in debt. The debt is so huge, that most nations on this planet could not handle such an amount. What an awful situation, Ford and GM are putting out decent cars now, but they have lost a huge part of their customer base, and geographical areas in the US, and it would appear they do not have the resources to sustain the on-going onslaught of the foreign based companies who can wait Ford and GM out if they had to. Bankruptcy is on the horizon for F.

  • avatar
    dkulmacz

    And once again, for all of the people here who are seemingly fascinated by large numbers (and maybe also shiny things? who knows . . .)

    The huge debt numbers are associated with the financial services arm of the company. You know, the part that borrows money at a low rate and then lends it out at a high rate? If you somehow think the automotive portion of the business is somehow $180B in debt, then you are willfully ignorant or willfully delusional.

  • avatar

    So dkulmacz how much debt does the automotive portion of Ford have?

  • avatar
    jurisb

    what the heck? 30 platforms? i couldn`t count even 10. where the hell did you get 30? if we count out mazda3, 6 , volvo and other foreigners how many fords own platforms do we get? right- close to none. one big truck rail chassis derived in different sauces.
    and mullaly runs now ford not for prosaic reasons like engineering achievement. paycheck says everything. if alaskan aleuts could double the paycheck, he would run his innovation in salmon farm. believe me. Wasn`t it under mullaly when boeing was caught stealing blueprints from lockheed -martin, and later banned from all missile projects?
    one major problem is that top management carries no responsibility. if an assembly labourer scrrews up something on the line, he gets fired. if CEO does good job,CEO gets bonuses. If company heads south,CEO gets bonuses. If the company heads towards chapter 11, CEO gets bonuses. You see there is no situation when management would be responsible with their own paychecks. Even if they were, their annual income allows them to quit job at any moment, and sunbathe in malibu for the rest of the life. A worker can`t make both ends meet after he has been fired. so he trembles not to lose his work. WHAT DO TOP MANAGERS TREMBLE OF? Nothing. no responsibility, no reason to succeed.are we not yet below water line? good enough….. if they were in charge of their companies or workers, then normally irresponsibility would lead them to prison. how many are imprisoned? The only place they are imprisoned, is their own black void of greed.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    30 platforms are easy to imagine. Just look at midsize cars. Ford has the Jag X-Type (old Mondeo), Mondeo, Volvo S60, Mazda 6, and Fusion/Milan/MKZ. The Fusion/Milan/MKZ could be argued to share a platform with the Mazda 6, but there are enough differences in chassis components/dimensions, that I would argue they do not.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    This article points out all the different versions of parts that Ford makes for their 30 different platforms. You also have to think about how long Ford is going to make replacement parts available for all of those different platforms.

    There’s a terrible story in the May 16, 2007 edition of “The Los Angles Times” titled “Where There’s No Part to Spare” about a guy who bought a 1996 Lincoln Mark VIII (one of Ford’s flagship automobiles) and with 66,000 miles on it, and he is unable to find a variable load control module (a.k.a. a black box). They quit making the part! And he’s unable to find one in a junkyard.

    He’s screwed. The article goes on to say that the guy went and bought himself a new Lexus and he’s looking for a charity to give the Lincoln to.

    If Ford goes belly up, what are the chances that you’ll be able to keep your Ford product running? They’re not that good with the company still in business.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    The URL for the L.A. Times story is:

  • avatar
    Johnster

    http://www.latimes.com/classified/automotive/highway1/la-hy-wheels16may16,0,5601970.story?coll=la-class-autos-highway1

  • avatar
    allen5h

    indi500fan:
    June 7th, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    Ford was really the class act of the Big 3 (yeah maybe that is being minor league champ) until Nasser took over in the late 90s. He managed to screw up just about everything over there in a remarkably short time.

    What an awesome post. Two things to consider from this thought provoking post:

    a) That barns that have painstakingly been built by highly qualified carpenters can easily be kicked down in a short time by any ass;

    and,

    b)that the asses should not be rewarded.

    Nasser left with a sizable multi-million per year retirement. Quite often these CEO retirements run in perpetuity, so even after their death all of these millions are still pumped into their estate.

    The one sure way to fix this is for shareholders to vote against the wishes of the Board. I do this quite frequently, but who else is doing this? Not the institutional shareholders.

  • avatar
    dkulmacz

    I believe that according to the ‘06 annual report, the Ford auto biz had about $38B in debt . . . after the big ‘mortgage the farm’ loan. And to offset they had like $43B in cash and liquid assets. That’s hardly as sexy as $180B in debt.

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