Bill Ford answers questions on Mustang, F-150, Mulalley

BY GERRY MILES

There’s some interesting news out of New York with Ford and its chairman, Bill Ford, spoke with Bloomberg TV’s Matt Miller about the new Mustang and F-150.

Below follows some parsed remarks on several tops for a quick hit and here’s a link that will take you to the interview, courtesy of Bloomberg TV.

Ford on various subjects:

“Our [European] sales are getting better each quarter,” said Ford. “And we — you know, I’m feeling quite good about Europe. We still have a ways to go but we are definitely in a better situation today than we were a year ago.”

On the succession plan at Ford, he said “One of the things that Alan and I have talked about really since he hired in is how important it is for a great CEO to also have a great transition…the final act of a great CEO is having a great transition.” He declined to say if Mark Fields would succeed Mulally.

Bill Ford on the debut of the special edition 50th anniversary Mustang:

“We cut it into five pieces, reassembled it at the top of the Empire State Building and had a great reveal this morning. And the reason we did that is we did that in 1964, with the original Mustang. So we thought to re-create it 50 years later would be kind of cool.”

On what makes the special edition different:

“It’s got Brembo brakes, a little bit of differentiation on the exterior, all chrome treatment in certain places, the Pony Corral badge, which hearkens back to the original Mustang. Some unique interior finishes, and really there are only two things that you have to decide. A, you want white or blue and, B, do you want manual or automatic. And for me it is always manual.”

On more carmakers are going only automatic and getting rid of the manual transmission:

“I understand but I do not like it. I love to drive cars and I — particularly a sports car to me should always be a manual. It is just a lot of fun to work through the gears. And I feel you can control the car better. But not everybody feels that way. So we do offer both. I will always get the manual.”

“Automated driving really does allow denser driving patterns that allows better safety. I mean, there are a lot of really great advantages to it. But I love to drive cars and always have and always will.”

“I mean, to me it’s a way for me to have great fun. So I’m very excited about the all the autonomous features coming into vehicles because people really do want them. A lot — not everybody feels the way I do about driving a vehicle. A lot of people just want to get from point A to point B and they want to do it quickly and safely. And so a lot of the automated features we’re putting in allow them to do that. But I will always want to be behind the wheel.”

On the Mustang being available all over the world:

“What’s very cool is I introduced this in Barcelona at the end of last year and they went wild over it. It was interesting; even though they have never had the Mustang in Europe, it needed no introduction at all. Everybody knew Mustang and everybody knew what it stood for. And really in many ways, Matt, it’s a brand unto itself. You do not have to say Ford Mustang. You just say Mustang like F-150. And that is true around the globe and so you’re right, finally people around the world are getting to have a Mustang.”

On the F-150:

“Well, we think the aluminum F-150 will be very cool for all the reasons you mentioned. One of the things we did it is we were worried initially that customers might not think it was tough enough, so we gave it to big fleets of mining companies for a year and said just beat it up as much as you can. And they came back with glowing reports about how well it held up that way surpassed their expectations. We’re going to always be looking to lightweight our vehicles as we go forward.”

On the 50th anniversary edition reveal:

“We’re going to reveal that one a little bit. And by the way, I’ve signed all 1,964 — well, they are on a plaque. I signed the plaque. And then each plaque will be numbered so you will know what number you have and it will be very cool.

On whether the aluminum will be more difficult to repair and more expensive:

“We do not think so. We’re spending a lot of time working with our parts and service group, with our dealers, and one of the things that we do know is that aluminum has great dentability characteristics. It will dent less easily. So but in terms of assembling it and repairing it, this will be new for some of our dealers. And so we are trying to get them up to speed.”

On whether Tesla should be able to sell direct to consumers or if they should have to have a franchisee network:

“I mean, look, we love our model. We have great dealers. They’ve been through thick and thin with us. And we have all gotten better over the last few years. We have — the manufacturer has, our dealers have as well. I think the issue will be, going forward, is not so much how you sell them but how you will service them in the market. That is something that I am not sure how is going to play out in the other model.”

On Ford’s relationship with its dealer network:

“Well, it’s hugely important. The dealers are the face of Ford Motor Company to our public, and our dealers do a really good job of taking care of their customers in their communities. The people in that community think that dealership is Ford Motor Company. So it’s a huge responsibility they have and they do it very well. And we work — both sides, dealers and ourselves, work very hard to keep the relationship strong.”

On the succession plan at Ford:

“We have got a great team. One of the things that Alan and I have talked about really since he hired in is how important it is for a great CEO to also have a great transition. And so we feel our team is really good and really deep and very experienced. So and it is interesting, a lot of great CEOs leave and then there is chaos behind them. And Alan and I have talked about that, the importance of the final act of a great CEO is having a great transition.

On whether Mark Fields will succeed Mulally:

“Mark is really important to us. But, come on, man, I will not give you that this morning.”

On how key China is to Ford’s future:

“Well, long-term, it is very important. It is the biggest market in the world. It is growing at 7.5 percent a year this year and it’s a very healthy growing market. We are doing really well. Now we are also coming off a relatively small base. So we are growing as fast as we possibly can. The Ford brand is very well respected in China and that is why I am excited that the Mustang is coming to China because they will love that, too.”

On whether the future is bright as far as Europe reports:

“Yes, it is getting better thankfully. We have seen this — I have seen this many — all too many times in my career, both in North America, Europe, South America, where you’re going great guns and then things fall off and you have to rebuild. And we have had a few quarters now of things getting better in Europe. Our sales are getting better each quarter. And we — you know, I’m feeling quite good about Europe. We still have a ways to go but we are definitely in a better situation today than we were a year ago.”

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