The $7 Billion Hole In His Pocket
His great-grandfather Henry founded the company in 1903. And as the first member of his family to be CEO of Ford Motor since the 1970s, Bill Ford, 49, badly wanted to put his stamp on the place. An environmentalist at heart, he promised big gains in the fuel economy of gas-guzzling SUVs and got the company rolling in hybrid-vehicle production. More important to Wall Street, he told investors in 2002 that Ford would make $7 billion in profits by 2006, fueled by a fleet of stylish, high-quality new models.
Instead, the past few years have turned out to be devastating for Ford Motor (and Detroit overall). The rise in fuel prices and a consumer shift to smaller vehicles sideswiped the firm. During the first nine months of 2006 alone, it lost about $7 billion. And as sales plummeted, Bill Ford's environmental goals took a backseat to keeping the company solvent. In September, with major downsizing plans in place including 52,000 job cuts and 16 factory closures he announced that he was stepping aside. "Our products can compete," says Ford, who's staying on as chairman to work with the new CEO, Alan Mulally. "But we have to convince people that's true."
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