Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009

Alan Mulally

When Alan Mulally first arrived as president and CEO of Ford Motor Co. three years ago from the aircraft maker Boeing, there was doubt within Detroit that he could tame the famous auto beast. Automaking is a complex process, after all, with each car containing thousands of parts, which must be carefully designed, purchased, assembled, marketed and sold. Could he handle all that? Mulally's response: Let me take some of the complexity out of it, and by the way, if you really want complex, try building commercial airliners. Today, Ford is the only company of the former Big Three that didn't go bankrupt, and it has plenty of cash, since Mulally leveraged the company before the financial crisis. It's a status that owes much to Mulally's forceful restructuring of Ford's culture, including its global ambitions. Why make different versions of the Fusion for every continent when you can design and build one model for the entire world so much more efficiently? It's not more complex, just more effective.

— Bill Saporito