Does Bill Ford Have An Inside Line With Team Obama?

John Horner
by John Horner

Today’s New York Times has an interesting piece on the relationship between Ford Motor Company Chairman William C. Ford Jr. and Barack Obama’s team. During the entire industry bailout brouhaha ol’ Bill Ford has been conspicuously absent, leaving the dirty work to his well-compensated surrogate Mulally. Those with long memories may recall that Bill Ford made a big splash several years ago claiming that the family firm would assume leadership of a new, greener automotive future. At the time he had a hard job squaring his noble words with the launch of the Ford Excursion. Luckily for Ford, the Excursion has since gone on permanent holiday and Hummer has assumed Scarlet Letter status with greens everywhere. Ah what a difference a few years can make. Suddenly good fuel economy is back in style and monster trucks are so yesterday. Lately, “Mr. Ford has been working behind the scenes, meeting one-on-one with Mr. Obama in August, conferring with his senior economic advisers, and teaming up with Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan to push a vision of a leaner, greener auto industry.” Ford remains in the best position to stay further ahead of the bear than GM or Chrysler as it has enough cash to get through the next year and is “not on the verge of bankruptcy like G.M. and Chrysler.” While GM and Chrysler have slashed development budgets well beyond the bone, Ford is able to say: “We have a plan that is high-tech, product-driven, which is a fuel economy plan, and we have kept that plan in place under these tough conditions.” About that meeting with Obama? “We talked about the electrification of our industry and other fuel-economy issues. He’s a great listener and he asked all the right questions.” Bill Ford didn’t get to be first chair in his family by being overly boastful though, and says that “he does not profess to have Mr. Obama’s ear yet on the how to save Detroit. But Mr. Ford is keeping close contact through Governor Granholm, a member of the president-elect’s economic advisory team.” Now about those congressional hearings: “Mr. Ford said that some of the skepticism from Congress about the industry’s future was justified. ‘I completely understand the frustration that Americans feel and it came out loud and clear this week,’ he said. ‘I don’t think we told our story terribly well.'” You have to believe that Ford the company and Ford the family would learn to live with being the last man standing, industry solidarity notwithstanding.

John Horner
John Horner

More by John Horner

Join the conversation
2 of 11 comments
  • Peteinsonj Peteinsonj on Nov 24, 2008

    So -- will Obama's presidential limo be a Lincoln or a Caddy? I wonder if his meetings with Ford were to pick upholstery colors ;-) Caddy's have been the limos of choice for a numbers of years now- Lincoln's were the choice for years before.

  • MattK MattK on Nov 24, 2008

    I am much more impressed by what Ford has to offer than what GM is showing (Volt) and what Chrysler is pretending (EV) to have in the pipeline. The Ford Fusion Hybrid with a projected 39 mpg city is a game changer as far as I'm concerned. Whether you're interested in the technology or not, it offers better city fuel economy than almost anything else out there including the diminutive Smart ForTwo, Jetta TDI, and of course the Toyota Camry Hybrid. I would like to see Ford ditch Mercury and concentrate on two brands, Ford and Lincoln. In fact, if it came down between Lincoln and Volvo, I would toss Lincoln and keep Volvo.