Ford CEO Mulally Fights for Underdog, Promotes Weight Savings

Finally, somebody in top brass gets it. When CEO Alan Mulally oversaw the development of the Explorer upon taking charge of Ford in 2006, he ordered engineers to cut weight and improve fuel economy, or kill the Explorer altogether.

“Alan told us we need to truly reinvent the Explorer,” said product development chief Derrick Kuzak. When he presented Mulally with the production-ready Explorer in 2009, he didn’t focus on anticipated sales figures or projected profits: he started with how the team had cut 100 pounds and raised fuel economy by 24 percent, the best in its class.

And by January, the dieting paid off–Explorer sales were up by 73%.

Automotive enthusiasts (and the part of Lotus’s marketing division that doesn’t keep Colin Chapman’s grave spinning at night) have championed this for years. Coming from Ford’s top man, however, puts a little more meaning behind those words. Mulally has ordered that all Fords introduced within the next 10 years must be 250-750 pounds lighter than their predecessors. And as a result, if any vehicle can’t have the best fuel economy in its class, it’s killed off.

“Weight is absolutely critical,” says Mulally, who views weight savings from a fuel economy standpoint. Already a version of the Explorer is being planned with the EcoBoost turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which may get as much as  29MPG highway. And the Mustang will get the EcoBoost engine as well. So enthusiasts will appreciate this from a performance and handling mindset, but with such an aggressive weight-cutting proposal, everybody wins.