It took a decade for Mr. Then he had a clever idea for a sales pitch.
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The idea was so successful regionally that Ford turned it into a national campaign and made him the corporate director of truck marketing. He also came to the attention of Robert S. He also learned the subtle, sometimes brutal, strategies of the executive scramble — to court allies, evaluate and undercut rivals, whatever it took to gain the next rung up the corporate ladder. Associates said he could humble a subordinate for a mistake one day and praise him the next. Iacocca succeeded Mr. McNamara as vice president and general manager of the Ford Division in , and four years later secured his place in automotive history by bringing out the Mustang, a small, rakish car with bucket seats and a floor shift that appealed to affluent young buyers and motorists of all ages who had dreamed of owning a sports car.
Its success landed Mr. Iacocca and the Mustang on the covers of Time and Newsweek in the same week in April The garrulous Mr. Iacocca became a favorite of reporters, who delighted in his candor, rare in the car industry. There were missteps: The Pinto burst into flames in rear-end collisions, and lives were lost. For years he opposed airbags, mandatory seatbelts and other safety items, insisting they did not sell cars. But he outmaneuvered rivals for the executive suite and was named president of Ford in , the No.
In the next eight years, as gasoline prices and foreign competition rose, Mr.
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Iacocca cut costs, streamlined operations and turned unprofitable divisions around. He nurtured managers who challenged conventional wisdom and solicited ideas from dealers and unions. He also began to revel in the glitzy perquisites of his lofty position. His extravagances reportedly offended Mr. Ford visited his office only a few times in his eight years as president. Their families rarely socialized. The company was publicly held, but Mr.
Ford remained autocratic, deciding the fates of executives who came and went. He fired Mr. Iacocca in July , saying he just did not like him. He never gave more detailed reasons. Some industry observers said Mr. Ford could not tolerate a nonfamily rival, especially one of Mr. In his memoir, Mr. Iacocca detailed a long struggle between them, and called Mr.
Ford a man of limited vision with ethnic and racial biases. Several months later, Mr. Iacocca joined Chrysler.
2. Get everyone together and make sure their interaction is respectful.
It was debt-ridden, losing millions and had virtually no credit. He closed plants, cut the work force in half, won large union concessions and sold assets to raise cash. It was not enough. But Mr. Iacocca did not ask for a handout, or even a loan, just a federal guarantee of loans from banks and other creditors. Taking him at his word — that he could resurrect Chrysler, that it was too important to be allowed to fail — Congress passed and President Jimmy Carter signed the loan guarantee, enabling the company to get back on its feet.
Many factors accounted for the turnaround, but among the most important were the success of the K-car, a small, fuel-efficient, front-wheel-drive sedan, and the minivan, which seated seven people and was sold as a family or delivery vehicle. In , Chrysler acquired American Motors and its Jeep division. Its Jeep Grand Cherokee was introduced in , the year Mr. Iacocca retired, and became one of the biggest sellers in Chrysler history.
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After retiring, Mr. Iacocca moved to Bel Air, Calif. But he was restless for action. In , he and his friend Kirk Kerkorian, a corporate raider who had been accumulating stock in Chrysler, made a hostile takeover bid for the company. Chrysler rebuffed it and canceled plans to name its headquarters and technology center in Auburn Hills, Mich. Iacocca, whose action was portrayed as a betrayal of the company he had rescued. In , Daimler-Benz A.
Iacocca said it might not have happened if his takeover had succeeded. The company is now owned by the Italian company Fiat. In addition to his autobiography, Mr. In , months before Chrysler and General Motors declared bankruptcy after years of mounting losses, Mr. Iacocca visited Auburn Hills and was greeted with thunderous applause by a thousand Chrysler workers. Everything his executives managed could be deciphered down to numbers. Bryce Hoffman, author of American Icon , explains the meetings:.
The data was presented without explanation or excuses.
Ford Motor Company The Greatest Corporate Turnaround In U S History
It was also color-coded. Anything that was on plan was green, anything that was off plan was red and anything that was in danger of becoming red was highlighted in yellow. Who can help him fix it? How do you measure progress against your plan? Does your team know the progress? Are they working together and helping each other when necessary? Many companies like Google and Intel like to use the Objectives and Key Results framework to create goals and track them. They hit the first road bump against the plan, and end up leaving the plan altogether. A plan is going to be the innovator for us to find new ways to find more opportunities to meet the plan and mitigate the risk.
And lieutenants of those in management typically roll their eyes when they hear it from their superiors.
He created a culture of teamwork. Before he came to Ford, there was infighting and elbowing among executives. The wallet-sized cards were handed to every Ford employee and the weekly BPR meetings got all the executives on onboard and helping each other when they needed it. During those BPR meetings, each executive brought an employee from his or her department to sit in on the meeting.
They are required to listen and give feedback. Mulally and his executives often ask these employees for their thoughts and reflections on what is being discussed. Mulally says :. The guests might be an engineer or someone from down on the factory floor. So, all this data is flowing up, but then all the results are also flowing down.
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It is going back and forth every week at these meetings. And at the end of the meeting, the comments you hear from the guests make your eyes water. I want to contribute to the plan as soon as I get back. This feedback inspires executives and the employees themselves. This sense of teamwork inspires everyone in the company to deliver results. What are you in business for? How is the world better off because of your company? When Ford started, owning a car was reserved for the wealthy.
And all future product development would be weighted against the promise made in this value proposition. It may have been a value proposition created 80 years ago, but Mulally loved its message and what it promised. Anything but luck!
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Instead, it was sticking to those business fundamentals — teamwork, business plans, and delivering useful products that made Ford successful.