It's May. It's Wilmington, Delaware. It must be another Ford shareholder meeting.
But unlike recent meetings, this one will have a decidedly different tone. This year, Ford shareholders will have a little giddy up in their step. And for good reason. In the last year, the Mulally makeover has kicked in gear and revved up Ford's once idling profit engine and stock price.
Compare where Ford is today with a year ago. In May of '09, Ford shares were trading at $4.96 and the company was coming off a first quarter loss of $1.4 Billion.
Sure the company knew it was going to avoid sliding into bankruptcy and it was in far better shape than GM and Chrysler, but there was still an uneasiness among Ford supporters. They questioned if the turnaround starting at Ford would continue.
A year later, Ford shares are up over $12.00 and the company is coming off four straight profitable quarters including last quarter when it made $2.1 Billion. Uneasiness among shareholders has been replaced with intense optimism. Ford is on a roll, and they're feeling it.
The question now is whether the Ford can extend the Mulally momentum? Can it go on an extended run? Can it build this turn around into several years of profits? Can "One Ford" be more than a one year wonder?
The answer right now is that Ford is not a flash in the pan. This turn around has been built on a strong, fresh line-up of cars and trucks. That won't end anytime soon.
While Alan Mulally correctly gets credit for shrinking Ford's production and borrowing billions to keep the company afloat, just as important was his commitment to continuing investment in new models. That investment is paying off with new models like the redesigned Taurus and Fusion Hybrid. And that should continue with the Fiesta hitting showrooms this summer.
Momentum in the auto business is built by getting costs and production in shape and extended by having the new cars and trucks people will want to buy. Mulally knows this. Which is why he wants to keep Ford from becoming a one trick pony and falling into the historical "boom and bust" pattern American automakers have followed the last 40 years.
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