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Ford is on a Roll



Ford is on a roll.


When Car and Driver decided to give out its first-ever Electric Vehicle Car of the Year award, it didn't go to a Tesla, or Toyota's EV market-leading Prius. Nope. Car and Driver named the Ford Mustang Mach-E its first-ever EV Car of the Year.


An American muscle car celebrated as the best electric vehicle on the market? On top of the best-selling Ford F-150 pickup truck poised to become the vehicle that saves the planet? Who would have believed it!


Ford leadership, that's who. Ford's current CEO Jim Farley is receiving well-earned praise for these developments and the consequent rise in Ford's profits and stock price, but this doesn't represent some brand-new innovation push for Ford.


There's a History Here


On the contrary, the push to bring these electric vehicle superstars to market began under the watch of his predecessor, James Hackett. And it was Hackett who drove hard for a fuel economy focus in the US market, even when it was politically difficult to do so.


But to get to the root of Ford's success with electric vehicles, you need to go even farther back in time. All the way back to 1999, when William "Bill" Clay Ford Jr., the great-grandson of Henry Ford, took over as Chairman of the company.


Even back then, Bill Ford had a vision of a cleaner auto industry -- and of an environmentally friendly Ford Motor Company. He struggled for nearly a decade to bring this vision to reality, with management missteps and failed commitments. But Ford never gave up on his vision, and when he recruited Alan Mulally from Boeing to be Ford's CEO in 2006, things began to click.


If At First You Don't Succeed....


In addition to cleaning up Ford's messy financial situation, Mulally embraced Ford's vision of fuel-efficiency and environmental progressivism. By 2008, the Ford Escape Hybrid SUV was the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market. During the great recession, Ford was the only one of the three major US auto manufacturers not to declare bankruptcy, and not to require government subsidies to survive. By 2012, Ford was the only manufacturer to have three of the top ten best-selling SUVs on the domestic market.


Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again. -- Henry Ford

The drive to implement Bill Ford's green vision for the blue oval continued after Mulally's retirement. His successor as CEO, Mark Fields, shocked the automotive world when Ford announced in 2014 its big move away from steel to aluminum for pickup truck body construction to improve fuel efficiency.


And Fields committed $4.5 Billion in 2015 to develop electric vehicles. Field's successor (Hacket) turned that investment into vehicles like the F-150 Lightning and the Mustang Mach-E, and Farley is now presiding over the company as the rewards come rolling in.


Long-Term Vision and Determination


Bill Ford has weathered a ton of criticism over the years. Derided as an ineffective CEO, and chuckled at for his lofty vision of a green auto industry, it would have been so easy for him to give up. But he persevered, over decades of ups and downs.


This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never. -- Winston Churchill

Bill Ford had a vision and he kept to that vision over the long haul. Along the way, Ford developed into a strong corporate Chairman, getting intimately involved in company leadership transitions and transforming corporate culture for the company to succeed.


So indeed, kudos to Jim Farley, current Ford CEO for the company's success. But also to his three predecessors, Hacket, Fields, and Mulally, and to the man behind them all with his unrelenting vision: William Clay Ford Jr.


Henry Ford once said, "The whole secret of a successful life is to find out what is one's destiny to do, and then do it."


Regarding Bill Ford's own destiny and success, I think great-grandpa would be proud.