The news popped into my Droid this morning marked “URGENT”: Ford Motor Co., nearly seven years to the day after losing its investment-grade credit rating, is back in the Big Leagues, according to Fitch Ratings. Add one more — Moody’s or Standard & Poor’s — and FoMoCo officially will be back and it will once again own its trademark Blue Oval.
That sound you hear is the clang of vindication. It’s for CEO Alan Mulally, who arrived in Dearborn in September 2006 to skepticism, executive infighting and a gargantuan task to get Ford back on track before it beat its Detroit rivals into bankruptcy court. It’s for Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr., who faced his own self-described shortcomings and pushed to hire Mulally even after Mulally said no. It’s for the automaker’s directors, who pushed their chairman to get outside help because their own liability was on the line. And it’s for the extended Ford Family, which subsumed fear, doubt and the (inevitable) loss of dividends in its choice to back Mulally and his plan through some very dark times.
And more. The imprimatur of Fitch, and the rest of the pack presumably soon to come, testifies to the good ol’ Midwestern resilience of Ford’s employees — its salaried and union employees in the United States, who executed a Herculean restructuring (if they didn’t lose their jobs, their plants or both in the process); and its executives and employees outside the United States, expected to do their jobs amid turmoil and angst back in Dearborn.
Most of all, though, the quiet upgrade is a rebuke to the legions of sanctimonious critics who predicted Detroit, including Ford, could “never” fix itself. It could never work effectively with the United Auto Workers. It could never compete with that invincible, all-knowing, never-wrong Japanese juggernaut called Toyota Motor. It could never deliver alternative-fuel vehicles and credible cars and fuel-efficient SUVs and pickups to the market … all at the same time. And it could ever earn real money or consistently generate cash selling cars and trucks to people who want to buy them.
This is where those three magical words are in order: You were wrong.