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Market trends: Will Mulally do for Ford what Ghosn did for Nissan?

The car industry runs religion a close second when it comes to searching for the Messiah.

Ever since Carlos Ghosn turned Nissan from a basket case into a global powerhouse, the industry has been mesmerised by the power of a ‘special one’ to turn things around.

A few years ago, Ghosn was nicknamed the $10 billion man, as any car company that could poach him would expect a boost to its share value of that amount.

Today, the Ghosn brand is not quite as strong, as Renault is struggling with lacklustre performances from the Clio, the fact, pretty well every model it has launched since Ghosn moved from Nissan. 

The new messiah

The new Messiah is Sergio Marchionne, who turned Fiat from a vast self-serving bureaucracy that happened to make a few cars on the side into a streamlined, modern business.

Clearly an organisational genius, has Marchionne laid the foundations for long-term success? 

Firstly, he was fortunate with his timing.

He came in at the point when Fiat was launching its new Punto, the car that traditionally hauls Fiat back from the edge of bankruptcy every six or seven years. 

He also gave the green light to the funky 500, a car that the old management decided to leave on the
shelf in favour of the
comedy-gold Croma.

However, three good small cars (including the Panda) aren’t going to make Fiat into a long-tem success and there are still few signs that it can make a success of larger models.

The Bravo is probably making money, but mainly because Fiat slashed development costs rather than by actually selling more examples.

The comeback kid

UK salesmen appear to have become so fixated with the 500 that sales of other models have slumped. 

The man who many in the idustry hope is the next Messiah is Alan Mulally at Ford. 

Having announced its worst ever quarterly loss of £4.6 billion, Mulally is busy trying to use Ford of Europe’s product expertise to re-engineer the US car line-up.

In a revealing comment, one of his top lieutenants recently described the company’s competencies as SUVs in the USA and cars in Europe. 

His admission that designing cars in the USA was not a competence of Ford must have had old Henry spinning in his grave. 

However, if Mulally does pull it off, it will be the greatest comeback of them all – presumably he will visit Ford of Europe by walking across the Atlantic.

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