Fords Young Exec Faces Big Challenges

By: Sarah Mcbride

Joe Hinrichs is the newest executive of Ford Motor Co. As such, Ford family expects a lot from him. He faces big challenges and he has the burden of surpassing Ford's expectations.

Hinrichs spent grew up in the small, blue-collar town of Fostoria. With a 4.0, he graduated as valedictorian of his Catholic high school. Then, he went to the University of Dayton on a president's scholarship. He pursued MBA at Harvard University. After that, he was absorbed into the auto industry. Hinrichs was a former engineer of General Motors Corp. factory way back in 1989. He transferred to Ford Motor Co. in 2000. He transported Ford's transmission parts from one plant to another. Since coming to Ford in 2000, he's had six promotions.

Now, at the age of 40, Hinrichs is the youngest vice president at Ford. He is charged with extensive North American manufacturing operations of the automaker. He supervises 42 Ford factories in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

It is apparent that Ford is riding on rocky and troubled terrains of the automotive world. This fact alone is a big challenge to the young executive. "Next year will be one of the most challenging years that I've ever seen, at Ford or anywhere," Hinrichs said.

Hinrichs to-do list for 2007 includes the closure of 4 plants and the preparation to close 3 more in 2008, keep reduction costs in plants, help launch five new cars and trucks, and execute 32,000 hourly buyouts at factories, without compromising safety or quality. According to him, if all that weren't enough, he will help negotiate a new contract with the UAW.

"Joe has served spaghetti in this plant," said Jim Buffalo Smythe, who serves on the plant committee for UAW Local 2280. That local represents workers at the Van Dyke Transmission Plant, where Hinrichs started his Ford career. "He's a very strong leader. Some people just have that. And he has that," Smythe said. "Joe can talk to anybody -- that's his strength."

The big challenges Hinrichs faces now are the hardest in his entire career. "Everyone believes that I've been very fortunate, and I have been," Hinrichs noted. "But there's five or six events that have just been tragic, real setbacks. You have to overcome them."

This year through September, Ford lost $7 billion and this calls for a swift action. Hinrichs is determined to focus on quality of products to boost trust among consumers. , engines, ergonomics and other performance and safety features as well as effective workflow are the main focus of Hinrichs.

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