Google appoints ex-Ford CEO to its board

Alan Mulally will bring auto expertise to the tech firm at a time when its developing self-driving cars

Google has named former Ford Motor chief executive Alan Mulally to its board, gaining auto expertise in its quest to develop self-driving cars.

Google has named former Ford Motor chief executive Alan Mulally to its board, gaining auto expertise in its quest to develop self-driving cars.

Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 18:06

Google has named former Ford Motor chief executive Alan Mulally to its board, gaining auto expertise in its quest to develop self-driving cars.

Mulally, 68, who was appointed July 9th, will serve on Google’s audit committee. He’ll receive an initial grant of $1 million in Google stock, an annual equity award of $350,000 with a $75,000 cash retainer and reimbursement of expenses, Google said in a separate filing.

His appointment to Google’s board is less than two months after the technology company unveiled the latest prototype of its self-driving car, a move which General Motors Co. said could become a “serious competitive threat” to the auto industry.

Mulally stepped down from Ford on July 1st, six months earlier than expected to make way for successor Mark Fields. He was also considered for the top job at Microsoft, a role that went to Satya Nadella after Steve Ballmer’s retirement. “This is really an inspired move,” Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, associate dean of the Yale University School of Management, said. “Mulally has a great deal to bring to Google. He’s an engineer’s engineer who has a great feel for consumer product innovation. This is a way to let us know that there’s no limit to the scope and scale of where Google is going.”

Mulally, who came to Ford from Boeing in 2006, engineered a turnaround at the automaker by globalising new models, cutting costs, boosting technology and overhauling the lineup with fuel-efficient vehicles, which has looks that evoke Aston Martin’s luxury models.

Ford earned $42.3 billion in the last five years after losing $30.1 billion from 2006 to 2008. “Alan brings a wealth of proven business and technology leadership experience,” Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, said. Mulally could evolve into a lead director on Google’s board, Sonnenfeld also said. Prior to Mulally’s appointment, Google had 12 board members.

“He works very well in teams and groups,” said Sonnenfeld, who has seen the former Ford CEO work with other business leaders. “He brings an ‘aw-shucks’ lack of ego and grandiosity to group problem-solving in a way that’s pretty inspiring.”

Google announced May 27th that it plans to deploy at least 100 fully autonomous vehicles that it designed in trials starting this year. The two-seat cars will have a top speed of40km/hour and no steering wheel, brake or accelerator pedals. Google had tested its technology in other cars, such as Toyota’s Prius, for several years. Other automakers, including Ford, are investing heavily in research and development of autonomous cars, which could help reduce traffic congestion and fatalities as more people migrate to urban centers.

President Barack Obama this week championed spending on research on cars that can talk to each other to help manage traffic flow. He took a test-drive in a simulator of a car equipped with such technology at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Virginia. “Mulally is fantastic on innovation,” Sonnenfeld said. “He’s very good at finding the positive windows for change. He can be a forceful, but always friendly advocate.”

- Bloomberg