The key to Ford's rebirth, Meyers said, is that the company has been able to fetch high prices for its smaller vehicles, making up for profits lost when truck and SUV sales fell. But Mulally may have to adjust if fuel prices stay relatively low or younger people stop buying expensive options that drive up small-car prices, Meyers said.
"That's where the treachery is," he said.
Meyers and others say the results at Ford have been dramatic since Bill Ford fired himself as CEO and hired Mulally in 2006, a year in which Ford lost a staggering $12.6 billion. Ford restructured, using a $23.5 billion loan from mortgaging its factories and other assets to close plants, shed brands and cut its global work force by more than a third.
Ford has now reported billions in profits for three straight years. It will resume paying a dividend next month for the first time since September 2006.
Still, Kuzak and Booth leave some unfinished business.
Kuzak's revamp of the flagging Lincoln luxury brand has just begun, and Booth is leaving before the ratings agencies return the company to investment-grade status. Ford was downgraded to junk status in 2005.
Booth led Ford Motor Co.'s financial operations through the banking crisis in 2008. As the company returned to profitability, he pushed to repay the money it borrowed to survive. At the end of last year, Ford had cut its debt to $13.1 billion.
Shanks, Booth's replacement, began his career with Ford in 1977, serving in finance and strategy positions across the world.
Nair, who will replace Kuzak, joined Ford as an engineer in 1987 and has held leadership posts in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. He currently heads Ford's global engineering operations.
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