Bill Ford Steps Down As CEO

For the first time in more than half a century, Ford Motor Co. reached outside the auto industry to put a CEO in the driver's seat. Ford hired Alan Mulally from the Boeing Co. to serve as its president and chief executive officer.

For the past eight years, Mulally, 61, had led Boeing's commercial aircraft division in its duel with Airbus but last year he was passed over when the Chicago-based aerospace company picked another candidate to fill the role of Boeing's chairman and chief executive.

Mulally, who will start his new job October 1, said he was looking forward to the challenge of turning around the fortunes of another American icon. Boeing has now surpassed Airbus in new orders and will certainly surpass its European rivals in deliveries next year, he said during a conference call from Ford headquarters. One of the reasons for the turnaround was that Boeing had chosen to compete by offering better products and better service, he said. Ford can do the same, he said.

"Some people believe that the U.S. can't compete in the design and manufacturer of sophisticated products like airplanes. I'm not one of them," said Mulally, who was in charge of Boeing's Commercial Airplanes since September 1998.

Bill Ford, the automaker's chairman who is relinquishing the CEO post to Mulally, noted that Mulally is on a very short list of executives with hands-on experience turning around a major industrial company.

During the conference call, Bill Ford stressed he planned to remain actively involved in the day-to-day management of the company. He also said he expected the revisions to the Way Forward to be approved by Ford's board as soon as next week.

Mulally also stressed that he would not have taken the job without a firm commitment that Bill Ford intended to remain chairman and actively involved in running the company.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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