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Ford CEO Alan Mulally launched the 2011 Ford Explorer at New York and I was at once struck by the simplicity and success of Ford under Mulally.
As you might recall, Ford was the only US auto company that did not ask or get Government bailout money and that gave it enormous freedom to sort out it's business. Alan Mulally's aerospace industry background probably helped a great deal. For, in aerospace you don't sell lots of airplanes and that helps keep complexity down.
Not so for consumer products, particularly in US Auto. The process plays out like this: Detroit hires a hot shot MBA Product /Brand Manager and what do you think the young ambitious manager will do? Well add a product variant because that demonstrates her/his contribution. Except that it adds headaches and complications starting at the dealer (you need new posters, new balloons and the mechanics need training) , manufacturing (tooling),parts inventories and a more fragmented supply chain. Once a product is added you wait around for a global recession and a leader like Alan Mulally who has the courage to call out "Enough" and do so fairly pleasantly.
Ford was greatly distracted with eight brands Ford, Mercury, Lincoln, Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, Volvo and Mazda.Now they are focused on only Ford and Lincoln. You could buy Ford Explorer two years ago with 76,000 configurations and now that is down to 1500 configurations . Still a great deal more than founder Henry Ford's idea in 1908 with the Ford T of having only one option – the black color !
Alan Mulally's approach is great and worth considering, no matter what your business.