The Sweet One is on the boil today, laying out a multi-point plan for the Great Leap Forward due to the new Honcho-appointment brouhaha. We actually agree with every point Peet makes except one, and it's a doozy: "The commercial airplane business and the car business have exactly zero in common, although Wall Street was positively gushing over Mulally's appointment - but this 'bold move' might just have trouble written all over it, so for now, let's just say it's a giant 'we'll see.'"
Wrong, Peter. The commercial aerospace industry has a lot in common with the auto industry. Both industries are now highly consolidated operations consisting of multinational entities born of competition and acquisition. The products range across the board, from massive people-carriers like the 747 and A380 to airborne cargo vans like the C-17. From doddering warhorses that are continually upgraded like the Lockheed Electra-based P-3 maritime patrol cruiser to the F-22 fighter. Large aerospace entities have to serve niche markets, (especially Boeing, with their diverse markets in defense and commercial fixed-wing and helicopter aviation).
Hot rodding was essentially birthed by aerospace guys. Aircraft companies can't take a "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" approach as they did in the "nobody knows anything, so let's try this" heyday of the first half of the last century, lest they lose multibillion-dollar contracts. Planes have to work, and they have to work now and for a long time afterward to justify the investment. Yes, the Explorer debacle was bad for Ford, but think about how 9/11 affected Boeing, even though the company itself wasn't at fault.
The aerospace industry has a history of modular systems, and developed it far more rapidly than the auto industry did. And it has its own history of rapid turnaround times. Simply look at WWII. Which was also a period when the two industries were greatly entwined; Packard and Rolls turning out Merlin engines — two of the finest automobile manufacturers in the world turning out an engine that helped turn the tide of the European war, and that's just the tip of the auto-aero incest iceberg.
Mulally has engineering degrees, which means he's not a sheer-numbers or marketing guy. In one way or another, the man is in love with machines. Ford needs somebody who understands that, because they've maxed out on industry insiderism. In fact, if you want to talk about "bold moves," this is the first one Ford's made that actually qualifies as such since they announced the campaign. It's the first news out of Detroit since the Challenger unveiling that's truly excited our West Coast bureau. And let's face it, the Challenger's a halo car. It's not going to single-handedly save DCX.
Mulally's appointment is not the same as GM's disastrous hiring of brand-managers from P&G. And while every CEO in the auto industry seems to be subject to your savagery, why not bring somebody in from an industry that has higher standards out of necessity, yet still has to figure out efficient ways to do things? True, Boeing and Airbus have a lock on airborne mass-transit. But it's a serious competition; a constant game of one-upmanship.
It's one of the smarter choices a directionless company could've made, and here's to hoping his vision for Ford is close to yours, Peet.
Dear Alan... [Autoextremist]