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Q&A: "This Isn't a Game We're Playing among Ourselves"

The aggressive strategy of CEO Jacques Nasser has come under fire amid some highly publicized stumbles at Ford. On June 12, Nasser spoke with BusinessWeek's Joann Muller.

Q: You set out to change Ford's culture. Has that been harder than you thought?

A: If transformation was easy, I think everyone would be doing it. Transformation is time-consuming. It needs constant reinforcement. It takes a lot of courage and many times requires new skills.

Q: Are there too many initiatives under way at Ford?

A: It isn't a question of more initiatives. There will always be those that want to criticize. We can't let that deter us. This isn't a game we're playing among ourselves. This is something our customers are demanding. Our core goals center around customer satisfaction and shareholder value.

That's not a flavor of the month. It's a framework to sustain leadership in this business. Six Sigma, lean manufacturing, e-business--they are not initiatives. They are tools, processes, and technologies that support the basic strategies and plans.

Q: Ford dropped in the most recent J.D. Power quality rankings as well as the Harbour Report on productivity. What went wrong?

A: We do have a lot of work to do in reaching our own customer satisfaction goals. We didn't make any improvement in J.D. Power, while the industry average did improve. As for the Harbour Report, the headlines are an indication of the low expectations for everybody else and the high expectations for Ford. Our productivity is the best, and has been for years. I know we got better last year. We'll continue to get better. You don't stop on productivity and customer satisfaction.

Q: Is the truck business losing ground?

A: The margins in the truck business will obviously be under pressure because there are many competitors. But that's the price of success. In many ways, Ford created those markets. Our competitors are charging us. And we'll come charging back. I've got a lot of faith in how resilient our truck team is.

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