Channel | Auto Industry News

Alan Mulally, Ford C.E.O., Brings the Focus Electric to “Late Show”

Alan Mulally, the Ford Motor Company president and chief executive, took his pitch for the electric car to late-night television just after midnight on Thursday, with an appearance on “The Late Show With David Letterman” on CBS.

Introduced by his uncharacteristically effusive host as a “hero” and the man “responsible for rescuing the Ford Motor Company from the brink of bankruptcy,” Mr. Mulally took his seat with a smile and a wave to the audience and, beyond it, the country Mr. Mulally hoped to sell on the Focus Electric, a purely electric compact car due in showrooms in 2012, according to The New York Times.

The conversation began in autobiographical cruise control, as the men swapped remembrances of early jobs bagging groceries and delivering newspapers. Mr. Mulally, at Mr. Letterman’s urging, then talked about his 37 years of experience in the aviation industry, specifically at Boeing.

“Nearly 6 billion people have traveled on the 737,” said Mr. Letterman, to the applause of the audience. After a few minutes, the perfunctory give-and-take was steered not so deftly by Mr. Letterman into the car world.

Mr. Mulally described the opportunity extended by William Clay Ford Jr., the automaker’s chairman, to lead Ford as his chance “to serve a second American global icon.” Mr. Letterman then pointed out that Ford weathered the global financial crisis without “government bailout money.” Cue a clapping audience and a beaming auto executive.

“When I joined Ford five years ago, Dave, clearly we needed to move very quickly to a different strategy,” said Mr. Mulally. “We decided together to get focused on the Ford brand and divested all the other ones.” During Mr. Mulally’s tenure, Ford sold its Jaguar-Land Rover and Volvo divisions, closed its Mercury brand and significantly divested itself of its holdings in Mazda.

Mr. Mulally sidestepped a question as to why other domestic automakers could not follow Ford’s example, before leading Mr. Letterman on a tour of the Focus Electric hatchback, which has a driving range of 80 miles, Mr. Mulally said.

Sliding behind the wheel, Mr. Letterman drove the car from one side of the stage to the other.

Mr. Mulally’s sales pitch was on target, but the shared moments of schtick were flat and felt scripted. The appearance felt like a car commercial, which is probably what it was meant to be.

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