Is there any overall thought you have about Ford in the context of the struggling auto industry?
"In my opinion, Ford is in the best shape of all the carmakers, despite the very real challenges in terms of finance and reduced consumer demand. They have the best product line, and most importantly, the government is not involved in their business. So all the compexity of trying to please multiple constituencies is not a problem at Ford the way it is at GM and Chrysler. Put another way, they have their autonomy, the most important aspect related to any large business, and that is critical."
Historically, how has Ford been perceived by the American consumer, if one can generalize?
"Until the recent past, Ford was seen as #2, behind GM in terms of breadth of product. But for some time, savvy consumers have recognized that Ford quality — all in all — has exceeded that of GM, and both the F150 and Mustang have a brand loyalty that is the envy of the industry. Above all — and especially now in times of crisis — Ford stands for "American Made" and America."
Do consumers still want trucks and SUVs? I know the Ford F-150 is hugely successful. Any thoughts on its future?
"Yes, Americans still want trucks. The F-150 is a workhorse for the farmer, jack-of-all-trades, and homeowner who takes care of the yard and the home. It reflects our ability to 'get it done.' Even if gas is $4.50 or more, many Americans will stick to their trucks and SUVs, because we like added room and the perception of enhanced safety if involved in an accident."
Do you think Ford is concerned that Chrysler and GM have advantages from either bailout funding or bankruptcy?
"I don't think that Ford executives perceive that GM and Chrysler have any advantages because of government intervention and financial support. Those two companies are just beginning to experience the confusion that comes from having too many cooks to stir the broth, so to speak. And who wants the UAW to hold a stake in the firm?"
Anything else you'd want to say Ford related?
"Ford should survive this crisis intact and will be a player in the global auto market for years to come. What the upheaval means for the future of our country, however, is the key question, and its outcome will do much to determine the place of the U.S. in the global economy during the 21st century."