Red Poling: Maybe No.2 Isn't So Bad

FORD'S BIG TALK about trying to topple General Motors as the world's largest carmaker surprises Harold "Red" Poling. When he was Ford's chairman, from 1990 to 1993, that was "never" on his agenda, he says. New chief Alex Trotman wants to boost U.S. market share from 26.3% to 30% by decade's end by cutting into GM's slice. That means outselling GM, which now has 32%, for the first time since 1932.

Poling, a 42-year Ford veteran, warns that such a Herculean goal might backfire. "If you set an objective so far away, people can't visualize it and have difficulty attaining it," he says. Poling, 69, managed to raise Ford's market share during the last recession.

Since retiring, he has been nursing his wife, Marian, who suffered a brain aneurysm last year. With Marian's health improving, Poling, an 8 handicap golfer, hopes to resume their Sunday golf game. A tough-minded trade hawk, he intends to take consulting offers on his areas of expertise: autos and trade.

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