There is no end to rumors when trouble starts. Look at Ford: They'll take the company private.
They'll sell half of Ford Credit.
They'll sell Jaguar.
Carlos Ghosn will be asked to bring his global alliance deal with Renault to Ford when General Motors turns him down. Or maybe there's a Ford deal with GM, itself.Wait! Ford just hired a new CEO from Boeing. That will cancel the old rumors, but then Ford says most aren't true anyway. So let's start new ones.
I fully expect to hear Paris Hilton is making an offer for 40% of Jaguar, because she heard it would be a…oh, never mind.
I have some words for the man from Boeing, Alan Mulally: The problem at Ford isn't money, cutting costs or the foreign bits.
Ford can always raise money, and an awful lot of costs already are being cut. The overseas operations mostly are moving in the right direction, and Jaguar has been seriously cut down in size.
There is a big problem getting rid of the 20 unwanted parts facilities and thousands of workers taken back from Visteon. If you can solve that one, Alan, you walk on water.But the biggest problem is creating cars and trucks for which Americans will pay full price. Ford has lost nearly 1 million annual sales in just five years.
Yet Ford should not be a difficult company to repair. There are only two dealer groups and three nameplates: Ford, Mercury and Lincoln. Plus, the dealer force is the best, at least it was.
Ford should be a much easier turnaround job than GM. All Ford really needs is a few good cars and trucks. The problem has been product leadership. By my count, Ford has killed 13 different car and truck nameplates in recent years.
That tells you how poor the product planning is. And, unlike GM, where change is not common enough, Ford changes management like I change my socks. I can count 10 living Ford ex-presidents. About half of those were successful.
Selling parts of the business won't help. That money merely will go into payoffs to get workers to retire and retirees to give up some benefits. What's more, sitting on a pile of cash will make it tougher when it comes time to negotiate with the UAW next summer.
Ford needs leaders who understand product; who understand the business; who have that flair, that knack, that instinct for knowing a winning product when they see it; and knowing how to sell it.
It needs leaders who are willing to take risks the way Bob McNamara did with the Falcon, the way Lee Iacocca did with the Mustang, the way Phil Caldwell did with the Taurus, the way Ed Hagenlocker did with trucks.
With the right management talent, Alan, it is a simple business. All you need is a good car and someone to sell it.
Go get 'em, tiger.
Jerry Flint is a columnist for, and former senior editor of, Forbes magazine.