Ford Unlikely To Step Down As Automaker's Public Face

Ford's new CEO--Alan Mulally, 61--is unlikely to appear in TV ads anytime soon.

The 37-year veteran of Boeing replaces Bill Ford, Jr., who will be executive chairman after a five-year run as CEO. But the great-grandson of Henry Ford is expected to remain the face of the company in corporate ads, a spokesman says. No one at Ford is saying how the change at the top may affect the message delivered.

Ford, which lost $1.4 billion in the first half of this year, has seen sales decline for the past three years. The company has lost market share in cars to imports, and suffered from consumer malaise over once-hot SUVs--a result of higher gasoline prices and booming crossover utility business--despite the new-found traction for the mid-sized lineup of Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr.

According to Autodata, Ford's U.S. market share sank to 16 percent in August, when sales dropped 11.7 percent. For the year, Ford has seen sales drop 10 percent.

Both Ford and General Motors have relied heavily on pickup trucks to support sales--and while Ford's F-150 full-sized truck remains the top-selling vehicle in the U.S., sales have slid 13 percent through August. Now, General Motors and Toyota are launching revised versions of Chevy Silverado and Tundra, respectively.



Meanwhile, as Ford is re-engineering its "Way Forward" revival plan launched last year, several changes may be on tap:

The company is mulling selling parts of its Premier Automotive Group, including cash-sink Jaguar, which Ford acquired 18 years ago; Land Rover, which only has Range Rover, LR2 and Freelander; and Aston Martin. Among the suitors for Jaguar is Jacques Nasser, the CEO who Ford Jr. ousted for the role. Nasser is now a senior partner at JPMorgan Chase.

Ford will decide the fate of its luxury brand Lincoln, which for years has not competed with the likes of Cadillac, Lexus, and BMW. The automaker has already announced plans to shrink its U.S. network of 4,300 dealers in the next three years to a retail presence more in line with the company's shrinking share of the market.

Ford may also sell part of its Ford Motor Credit division to generate much-needed cash to expand its lineup in car-based "crossovers," such as Edge, which bows this quarter. So-called crossovers are countering falling interest in traditional truck-based SUVs.

Several news outlets have also reported that Ford is considering going private as a way to nullify disappointment on Wall Street over several years of poor sales and earnings.

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