Ford CEO Alan Mulally has plenty of reasons to smile.
The 63-year-old auto executive was in a cheery mood on Monday morning during a conversation with Huffington Post -- after all, the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Transit Connect were just named North American Car of the Year and Truck of the Year, the company's stock was one of the best performers in the S&P 500 over the last year and he's been widely hailed for helping make Ford the only Detroit automaker to avoid bankruptcy.
Mulally is looking forward to the future, touting the MyFord technology, which transforms the dashboard into a technology hub with voice-activated features and the worldwide debut of the new Ford Focus.
"Our new feature called MyFord allows you to operate the vehicle and keep your eyes on the road," said Mulally. "And we revealed the new global Ford Focus - the response was just fabulous."
The Focus line -- which will include an electric Focus, small SUVs, and sedans -- will launch in 2011 in 122 markets around the world, including the Americas, Europe and Asia. The automaker will start production by the end of this year and is converting a truck plant in Michigan over to the production of the Focus as part of that massive effort.
Mulally also vowed to be "on the leading edge" of eco-friendly practices, spotlighting the company's EcoBoost technology as part of its initiative to provide powertrains that deliver fuel efficiency and power: "It's really important that we have an improvement curve on fuel mileage and CO2 reduction."
Mulally also answered some questions posed by HuffPost readers, including:
How is hybrid & electric car development going? When can we expect to see widespread rollout of affordable hybrids & electric cars in Ford's lineup? (Dave Smartt)
Ford has been a leader in hybrids and we will continue to improve the internal combustion engine, improve the cost [of items] like batteries, really focus long-term on integrated systems solutions, electric solutions, and generating electricity cleanly. Our goal is to move up that electric roadmap with the government. The main focus in the past has been the infrastructure itself - now how do we actually generate the electricity cleanly?
We're already there - Ford Fusion Hybrid was the car of the year. The future is now... Clearly we have hybrids today and soon the Transit Connect electric van.
Is the company committed to building on their success with quality cars, or will it take another economic downturn and declining sales to make great products? (Samuel Gonzalez)
I think you see a tremendous consistency of purpose by Ford to commit to this strategy. We decided that we were going to foster a family of vehicles -- nothing will deter us from serving customers with that lineup of vehicles with the best quality, the best fuel efficiency. All the third-party experts say that we really are delivering the best-quality cars and trucks.
During your career at Boeing Commercial Aircraft you oversaw the marvelous 777 development program which included some revolutionary changes in the methods aircraft were constructed. The process greatly increased the accuracy of component prefabrication and significantly reduced assembly time while enhancing overall quality. Are there any technologies forthcoming in the automotive sector that could be considered as advanced as those? (ottergott)
First of all, it was an honor to serve at Boeing on the 777. Everything that we have brought to the air-flight design, we are now incorporating to automobile design -- the materials, the digital preassembly, the fuel-efficiency technology, the safety features. We introduced our latest version of Sync and the application on top called MyFord, which allows the driver to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road and yet they get access to all the smartphones and Internet. That is exactly the technology we developed for the cockpit of airplanes - to be aware of everything, all the info was organized, easy to access and easy for them to use. There are tremendous parallels. Both Boeing and Ford are absolutely committed to safe and efficient transportation.
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