CEO Alan Mulally: 'Ford Is a Good Place to Be'

Ford CEO Alan Mullaly
Ford CEO Alan Mullaly

Three years after taking over at Ford (F) and laying out a plan to restructure it, President and CEO Alan Mulally laid out his assessment of the overhaul's progress. "It's going pretty well," he tells a group of reporters and auto industry officials gathered today for the start of the New York International Auto Show. "If you want to be in this business, Ford is a good place to be," he says.

Mulally explains that the company has benefited from its "Way Forward" plan, which renewed its focus on the Ford brand and building competitive, world-class cars, among other things. The former Boeing (BA ) executive adds that Ford has begun paying down debt and its credit ratings have improved.

Green Strategy

Ford's chief also outlines the carmaker's plan to deliver the greener, more fuel-efficient vehicles the U.S. market demands. Key to that future, he says, will be continued improvements in gasoline- and diesel-powered engines to boost their fuel economy. There's still "so much room to improve the internal combustion engine," he notes. Technologies such as direct injection and lighter materials can aid in achieving that goal.

The company aims to introduce more hybrid gas-electric cars, all-electric models like the Ford Connect small commercial van, and continue development of hydrogen-fueled vehicles, Mulally says. Ford launched the new Lincoln MKZ Hybrid at the New York Auto Show today. But he also warns that the U.S. is falling behind in developing new battery and powertrain systems.

More government help is needed to promote research and development, cutting the costs of better battery technology and updating infrastructure so more Americans switch to greener, cleaner vehicles, he says. Lawmakers need to make long-term commitments to promote manufacturing and free trade and develop natural resources.

Dig at Rivals?

In a seeming swipe at rivals General Motors and Chrysler, both of which filed for bankruptcy and received government bailout money to remain afloat, Mulally says he's pleased that Ford "respected all our debt holders and stockholders." Rather than filing for bankruptcy, Ford chose to work with all its stakeholders, including the United Auto Worker union, to continue operating.

Mulally last spoke at the New York Auto Show in 2007, shortly after he took over the reins at Ford in late 2006.