American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company by Bryce G. Hoffman (Crown Business, $26.00, 422 pages)
“At every level of (Ford), managers were being told to save money. They required little convincing. The newspapers told the story every morning: The American automobile industry was collapsing.”
In September of 2008, less than one million cars and trucks were sold in the U.S. (compare this to the 3.1 million sold in June of 2012). The automobile industry was imploding on a level that was once thought unimaginable. Ford was losing less money than G.M. and Chrysler, which was small comfort since it was losing $83 million a day. Alan Mulally – the man who had once saved Boeing – took over a scared company and decided to go on the offensive. He optioned everything Ford owned, including the rights to use its trademark Blue Oval logo, in exchange for the funds needed to literally go for broke. His daring comeback plans proved to be so effective that the failing leaders of G.M. and Chrysler were to eventually plead for a corporate merger with Ford.
“…the decision to go all in had not just provided Ford with the cash it needed to fund its restructuring – it also made it clear to everyone inside and outside the company that there would be no more half-hearted attempts to save the automaker. This time, Ford would finally fix its fundamental problems, or it would die trying.”
Bryce Hoffman presents an engaging story of Ford’s near-miraculous survival, but this telling is tamed by a couple of factors. The most interesting personal accounts of life at Ford were earlier presented in Bill Vlasic’s truly excellent Once Upon a Car. American Icon is also harmed by a poor editing job that finds words missing in some sentences, while other sentences contain unneeded words. Let’s hope the book is re-edited prior to its trade paper release.
“Instead of being known for its gas-guzzling trucks and sport utility vehicles, Ford would be known for its stylish compact cars and crossovers.”
Together, Vlasic’s and Hoffman’s accounts should serve to properly remind American consumers of the proud role that “FoMoCo” has played in our country’s manufacturing history. Ford has become a continuing success story of innovation, daring and common sense; it now builds the type of good quality, fuel-efficient cars that American drivers actually want to drive. (It was the first car manufacturer to switch from SUVs to crossovers.) And the American icon is not Alan Mulally, but the Ford Blue Oval logo that at one time might have been sold – for pennies on the dollar – to a Chinese start-up company to stick on cheap subcompacts. That is one fate that we escaped, thanks to the brilliance of Mr. Mulally.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. The reviewer once served on the Ford Motor Company Consumer Advisory Board. Here is a link to a review of Once Upon a Car – The Fall and Resurrection of America’s Big Three Automakers: GM, Ford and Chrysler by Bill Vlasic: http://josephsreivews.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/drive-my-car/