A review of
American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company
by Bryce G. Hoffman

American Icon is largely the story of how Alan Mulally teamed with Ford Chairman and family heir Bill Ford to save the company from falling into bankruptcy during the devastating recession that began in 2008. The company was powerfully motivated to avoid financial disaster because the Ford family knew that inevitably any reorganization would take away their controlling interest. As a consequence, the Ford Board of Directors got serious about financial and management reform long before their equivalents at GM and Chrysler.

Mulally himself certainly does deserve a lot of credit. By being resolutely positive and insisting on transparency and accountability at all levels of the company, Mulally instituted a sea change in Ford's management culture. The author, who is a reporter for _The Detroit News_, does criticize Mulally for a bit of personal greed, but the portrait is largely positive. All the adulation for Mulally should not obfuscate the fact that Bill Ford was wise enough to step aside as CEO and recruit the Boeing executive in the first place. His portrait of Ford's recession-era pullback from the brink of disaster makes a surprisingly gripping read.

Hoffman's narrative is a bit poignant due to its publication in 2012. He mentions the Company's improving quality and the hopeful introduction of the new Sync computer interface and EcoBoost engines. In fact, these innovations were disastrous for the automaker's reliability ratings, as the December 2013 Consumer Reports showed. Hoffman mentions only that Sync was "causing real problems for older motorists," where in fact Sync was widely panned by the automotive press. On the other hand, given the then Head of North American Operations Mark Fields' early cooperation with and support of Mulally, Fields' subsequent elevation to the top position makes perfect sense.

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alison@she-devel.com (Alison Chaiken)