The Obama administration is forcing GM and Chrysler to obtain big concessions from union workers and lenders to qualify for more federal aid.
Ford, however, is having better success on both fronts without a government mandate.
Unlike GM and Chrysler, the company has reached agreement with the United Automobile Workers to finance half of its new retiree health care trust with company stock.
Earlier this week, Ford also completed a deal with its creditors to retire $9.9 billion in corporate debt—some of which was part of the big borrowing in 2006.
Investors have welcomed the moves. Ford’s stock climbed 13 percent to close at $3.95 on Wednesday, the highest it has been since October.
That was when the car market crashed and the auto companies began burning through huge amounts of cash. A month later, Mr. Mulally was in the spotlight—along with GM’s chairman, Rick Wagoner, and Chrysler’s chairman, Robert L. Nardelli—during Congressional hearings on Detroit’s financial woes.
Mr. Mulally said Ford never intended to ask for federal help but needed to support the industry during its crisis.
“From Day 1, we had no desire to access the government money,” he said.
Ford parted ways with GM and Chrysler in December, when its two rivals effectively came under government supervision as part of their loan agreements.
Last month, the presidential task force forced Mr. Wagoner to resign at GM and began an effort to replace the company’s board.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ford, whose great-grandfather founded the auto company, and Mr. Mulally continue to pursue their long-range turnaround plans.
When Mr. Mulally came to Ford after 37 years with Boeing, one of his first tasks was to borrow the money needed to streamline the company and hasten its shift to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
He made his presentation to more than 400 bankers in the ballroom of the Marriott Marquis in New York, and he knew he was facing a skeptical audience.
“The No. 1 thing we need to do is deal with our reality and tackle those issues head on,” he said.