Alexander Trotman is the first person in Ford Motor Co. history to hold the titles of chairman, chief executive and president. But, the new chief said Tuesday, he sees no significance in the combination and plans no immediate change.
However, analysts questioned how long he can do all three jobs and still keep members of the Ford family informed and happy about the business. The Fords still control 40% of the company's voting stock.
The company said Monday that Trotman, 60, the British-born president of the company's automotive operations, will succeed retiring Chairman Harold A. (Red) Poling.
"For the foreseeable future, the way it was announced is the way it will remain," Trotman said in a telephone interview. "Who knows how we'll evolve as we move forward?"
Vice Chairmen Allan Gilmour and Louis Ross are well-suited to share the leadership burden, he said.
John Casesa, analyst at Wertheim Schroder & Co., was skeptical.
"Where is he going to get the time to spend with the Ford family and maintain the closeness to operations?" he asked. "I think you need someone else to manage the business on the day-to-day basis. His first most critical decision will be picking his president."
Ford has not had a president since Philip Benton retired in December. Trotman's old job was left vacant in his promotion.
His three titles are unique among the Big Three.
At General Motors Corp., Jack Smith is president and chief executive, while outside director John Smale is chairman and concerns himself specifically with the board of directors. Smith has sometimes dispatched William Hoglund, executive vice president, to outside events such as speeches and congressional hearings, leaving Smith free to run GM's daily operations.
At Chrysler Corp., Robert Eaton is chairman and Robert Lutz is president. Eaton concentrates on board matters and external affairs such as government relations, while Lutz keeps tabs on the day-to-day business.
Trotman said he expects few changes at Ford, which prepared for two years to have a new occupant in the executive suite.
"We don't feel jolted internally," he said. "It's business as usual."
Aside from the timing of Poling's announcement, which came during a ceremony Monday for the redesigned 1994 Mustang, there was little surprise. Poling had repeatedly said he would step down late this year. The Mustang event provided a fitting backdrop.
Trotman was instrumental in keeping the Mustang alive in the face of budget constraints that demanded that other products be funded first. He had also emerged as the favorite to succeed Poling over Gilmour and other executives.
It was at a similar event feting a redesigned Escort three years ago that then-Chairman Donald Petersen turned over the reins to Poling.
"I didn't just drop in from Mars," Trotman said. "I've been part of the management team for a long time now."
Several Wall Street analysts have questioned why Ford is not showing better profits along with its growing share of the U.S. market. Its $300 profit per vehicle trails the $800 per vehicle income at Chrysler.
Ford earned $1.35 billion in the first six months of the year, more than half that through its Financial Services Group.
"We're not planning our lives for profitability in any certain quarter," Trotman said. "We see an awful lot over the next 12 to 24 months that is exciting. Can you criticize our profits in one quarter or another? You can if you're sitting on the sidelines."