Former Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Donald Petersen and auto quality guru Dave Power, founder and former CEO of J.D. Power and Associates, debated the future of the car business at California Lutheran University on Jan. 21.
“The disease of, ‘how I am going to make my mark?’ is a devilish thing,” Petersen said. “Ten years isn’t long enough to make a personal judgment about a CEO’s term.” He said the choice of current Ford CEO Alan Mulally was fortunate.
Petersen said that as far back as the 1980s he was concerned about Ford’s focus on trucks.
The dilemma CEOs face is that it takes five years to design a car but markets change quickly. Power said in the 1970s the Japanese had small cars ready to sell when the first energy crisis hit.
He also said that America is reluctant to have a big tax on gasoline, which is why larger, less fuel-efficient vehicles remained popular for so long.
Power said that information is changing the way CEOs need to respond to market forces and not production. Power joined Ford in 1959 out of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School.