Ford Chairman and CEO Bill Ford acknowledged the difficulties facing the automotive industry in receiving the distinguished 2006 Automotive Industry Executive of the Year award Wednesday at the Detroit Athletic Club. Ford emphasized the importance of not only employing a clear strategy but adjusting to an ever-changing atmosphere.
“Every morning when you pick up the paper, there’s a new headline with a new set of ramifications. We’ve never had this kind of wind buffeting us daily,” Ford said. “We better be nimble, and we better be quick.”
The award, which recognizes excellence in automotive leadership from OEM executives, was presented by the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) and DNV, one of the leading management systems certification registrars in the world.
Ford stressed that in order for the company to regain North American profitability, it needs to take an honest approach.
“It doesn’t matter how good a plan you put together, if it’s not based on cold reality and not based on facts, it’s not going to succeed,” said Ford. “The first thing we have to do is get honesty on the table — honesty about our competitive position, the strengths of our products and the robustness of our processes.”
Ford’s candidness is one of the qualities that make him a true leader in the automotive industry, according to Carla Kalogeridis, editor-in-chief of AIAG’s Actionline magazine,
“He’s the face of the automotive industry right now,” Kalogeridis said. “There’s nobody else that’s stepping up to the forefront and laying it on the line like he is. There are a lot of positive and not-so-positive announcements going on these days, and I think he’s the one who’s willing to stand out there, put his face on the industry and put his face on his company. It takes courage.”
Kalogeridis said that Ford’s environmental focus also singles him out for recognition.
“Today, with our problems with dependency on foreign oil and skyrocketing gas prices, it’s a key issue with consumers,” she said. “And Ford’s been there all along quietly in the background pushing this issue. Now he can step forward and speak about it with knowledge and confidence. He’s obviously on top of the research.”
In his remarks, Ford cited new approaches — such as alternative-fuel vehicles and hybrid technology — that the company is taking to reduce its impact on the environment.
“I think ethanol represents a real opportunity for Ford Motor Company, but also for the entire industry and our country,” he said. “It has the potential to lessen our addiction on foreign oil, give our farmers a boost and lower CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere.”
Ford said the company is entering into long-term agreements with strategic partnerships with suppliers to improve collaboration, to accelerate innovation, and to drive quality and competitive costs.
“We’re also incorporating new ways of dealing with people at the most basic level,” said Ford referring to the Code of Basic Working Conditions adopted in 2003 for employees throughout the world. “For many companies, this isn’t a top issue or priority until suddenly it becomes one, and then it’s too late. Addressing the challenges that come with the new global realities that we face is essential to our continued success.”
In closing, Ford said that despite the current challenges, American car companies still possess a unique advantage over their foreign counterparts.
“It’s our innovative spirit,” he said. “Let’s make American innovation the envy of the world, and let’s do it in a way that values the people that we do business with and the planet that we live on.”