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'Smart' Cars: Ford's Employee Test Drive

Ford
Ford

Here's a novel idea.

Let's take the people who actually work at a car company and put them behind the wheel of the models crucial to that company's future. Ford Motor is starting to do that, and it's probably one of the smartest moves this company has ever made.

You might be reading this and thinking, "So what? Who cares if Bob in Ford marketing likes the European models these guys are bringing over to the U.S.?"

Here's why: This is a company that has the goods to re-make and re-define itself. It also has a track record of claiming, "don't worry, everything will be fine." It needs to break that bad habit, and a good start is getting its people behind the wheel of its future models.

After all, these are the people who will be the key to getting Ford through one of its most trying periods. Why not give them a chance to see, and buy into, the models Ford will be showcasing in the future.

When CEO Alan Mulally took over Ford, he talked about stepping into a company with a rich tradition. Damn straight. He also stepped into a company where many employees would routinely say to me, "Let's hope this latest turnaround works."

Since taking over, Mulally has succeeded, to a point, in opening up and changing Ford. But there's still work to do.

That's why letting employees drive, touch, feel Ford's "turnaround" models is important. Maybe this time, the folks in Dearborn who have told me, "Let's hope this turnaround works" -- will really believe it.

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The competition - stock quotes:

- General Motors

- Chrysler (privately owned)

- Toyota Motor

- Nissan

- Honda

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Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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