A View from Blue Grotto

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Model T celebrates the big 100

This week, in Richmond, Indiana, Ford Motor Co. celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Model T.

People must think I am a car enthusiast, several of my blogs feature tactics of the auto industry. I am not – a car enthusiast. But I am a Ford Motor Co. fan. I LOVE Ford, not necessarily their vehicles (though I do drive a Volvo, a member of the Ford family with sagging sales, unfortunately).

I love Ford because of its rich history – in America, in the auto industry, and in the lore of true car enthusiasts.

I love that a member of the Ford family, William Clay Ford, Jr., plays a prominent role in the company’s leadership as Chairman.

I love Ford because of the sense I get that they are really trying. That the Ford team is still working hard, despite the sometimes grave conditions they work within: demands in supply chain efficiency, the forces of environmental sustainability, competition within the industry, even retiree benefits are now affecting the legendary cradle to grave employer.

I list these not to impress you with my Market Weekly language proficiency, but to acknowledge the environment Ford operates in, and that I am not simply nostalgic and hoping for the return to the good times. The really good times may be over forever for the auto industry.

But I cheer for Ford. That rich history is powerful. In my last blog I lauded former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca for helping to inspire workers at his one-time auto powerhouse. Ford has an even greater opportunity for inspiration, in my opinion. The Model T alone being the first mass produced auto. Did you know that Henry Ford inaugurated the $5 a day minimum wage for his employees? Revolutionary at the time. You probably didn’t know that WWII icon Rosie the Riveter was in real life Rose Will Monroe, a worker at Ford Motor Company's Willow Run plant. And Ford denotes the Mustang as “an instant legend.”

The century-old involvement of the Ford family is impressive. To me, it shows that they still care. They care enough not to sell out. I’m sure it was hard for Bill Ford, Jr. to read rants pegging him as the “worst CEO in history,” and admitting defeat in some people’s eyes when he handed the reigns over to Mullaly. And despite the value of the Ford family's stock being cut a half a billion dollars, there is resistance to overtures by Kirk Kerkorian to buy out the family's shares in the company. One reason, bloggers speculate, is Kerkorian’s suggestion of retiring Mercury – a division close to one young Ford heir's heart. Elena Ford began the turnaround of Mercury in 2001.

That’s the illustration of a great company’s history.

It’s that all-American, apple pie thing. That security, knowing that things may be bad, but they are still cranking out sedans back in Michigan. I cannot imagine a U.S. without a Ford. And I hope I never have to. What can we do? All run out and buy a Ford? Not likely, but we can cheer for them, and celebrate with them the innovations a significant American company made to American culture and business.

Email me with examples of companies, or products, with rich histories that impress you.

One great quote from the man himself… “You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.” Henry Ford

Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto Inc.