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Ford's handoff, the UAW's quest and Camry's ranking: 3 things to watch in 2014

Dec 23 2013, 8:16am CST | by

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Ford's handoff, the UAW's quest and Camry's ranking: 3 things to watch in 2014
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Ford's handoff, the UAW's quest and Camry's ranking: 3 things to watch in 2014

Ford Motor CEO Alan Mulally, on the job since September 2006, turned the automaker around from record losses and is credited with transforming the company’s management culture to collaborative from back biting.

For Mulally, 68, the last major task at Ford is a smooth handoff. Ford management succession has been bumpy in the past, such as Henry Ford II firing Lee Iacocca in the 1970s or Chairman Bill Ford deposing CEO Jacques Nasser in 2001. Thus, a no-drama succession, with Mulally handing the baton to his successor, would be a final indicator of change at Ford.

In November 2012, Ford announced Mark Fields was being elevated to chief operating officer from president of the Americas. The move made Fields the leading contender to follow Mulally. The statement said Mulally planned to remain as CEO “through at least 2014.”

There’s already been some drama, in the form of news stories that Microsoft is considering Mulally as a successor to CEO Steve Ballmer . Reuters reported this month that Ford’s board planned to press Mulally for a decision about his future . Mulally told reporters at a holiday media reception after the story appeared that he loves running Ford and the company has made no changes in its plans.

Things may start to become more clear with the new year. John Thompson, a Microsoft director and chair of the board’s search committee, wrote on a company blog that the CEO search is “moving ahead well, and I expect we’ll complete our work in the early part of 2014.” For Ford, the question is whether Microsoft’s CEO hunt results in more or less drama for the automaker.

The United Auto Workers’ quest: One of the major goals of UAW President Bob King , whose term ends in mid-2014, is to organize an Asian or European auto plant in the U.S.

King told Reuters in September that he’d like to see Volkswagen voluntarily recognize the UAW at its Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory and not have an election.

Jonathan Browning, the then-head of Volkswagen’s, told the news service in November that the final decision would be subject to a worker vote in Tennessee. (Browning left the company in December).

UAW membership has edged up to about 382,500 at the end of 2012 from almost 355,200 at the end of 2009. But it’s still well below the peak of 1.5 million in 1979. The outcome at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee is a test whether the Detroit-based union can revive itself. History isn’t on the union’s side. The UAW’s last organizing vote at a major vehicle-assembly plant was in 2001 at Nissan Motor’s plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, where it lost by a 2-1 margin in 2001.

Camry’s ranking: Toyota Motor’s Camry is heading for its 12th consecutive year as the top-selling car in the U.S. But the automaker’s flagship sedan’s lead narrowed during the first 11 months against its main competitors, including Honda Motor’s Accord, Nissan Motor’s Altima and Ford’s Fusion.

Through November, Camry led Accord, its closest pursuer, 378,520 to 334,357. What’s more, Accord sales were up 10.6 percent compared with Camry’s 1.3 percent gain. Fusion deliveries surged 22 percent to 270,872 during the same period. Ford began producing Fusions at a second plant in the second half of 2013.

That doesn’t ensure Camry will lose the top ranking in 2014. The company has already signaled it intends to retain the sales crown. “We want Toyota to be America’s favorite car, period,” Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota’s U.S. sales unit, said during a September speech at the Automotive Press Association in Detroit .

Source: Forbes

 

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