Blog: Dave LeggettWhere next for Bernhard?

Dave Leggett | 12 January 2007

Here's a thought. Wolfgang Bernhard has stopped playing that old Clash number, 'Should I stay or should I go?' and finally opted to bail from Volkswagen. Where to next? One possibility might be Ford as head of Ford Europe. It would be a coup for Ford, but Ford has Lewis Booth in Europe, right? Well, let's looks at Ford. And here's a scenario that developed over a few beers last night.

Let's start with Mulally and Fields. It is said that they don't get on, that Fields has had his wings clipped following Mulally's arrival as CEO and is not all that happy. Might be true, might not. But there is one piece of evidence that supporters of the theory that he is out of favour with the Ford family can grab. Automotive News published a comment piece just before Christmas ripping into Mark Fields for the use of the company Lear jet for weekend jaunts back to his Florida home. A Detroit TV station did some digging to uncover that earlier, apparently.

Now, I make no judgement on Lear jet use (he must have his reasons and I am sure Fields' actions are not all that unusual in terms of his peers - Jeepers, if he turns Ford's NA ops around who cares?), but the mere fact that Automotive News ran a comment piece - albeit written by a guest contributor - criticising him on such a personal front may be interpreted by some as significant. There was even a follow-up selection of pretty critical letters published in AN while the Detroit Show was on. Some people say that AN is pretty darn close to the big companies in Motown (I couldn't possibly comment!) and that if such an article appears in AN, Fields must have therefore lost the support of Bill Ford. Days numbered and the tea leaves look bleak, the theory goes.

Okay. Let's - for the sake of argument - say Fields is indeed looking at an exit sometime soon. Who replaces him in Detroit? Lewis Booth may well, in such circumstances, be seen as a safe pair of hands. So, he's back to Detroit and what about the vacant slot as head of Ford of Europe? Step forward Mr Wolfgang Bernhard (contractual clauses, payoffs, permitting) - a product guy who also knows a fair bit about cost management, can be tough with unions and has big jobs at DC and Volkswagen on his resume. 

It's just a beer-induced theoretical scenario.

GERMANY: Bernhard leaves Volkswagen at end of month


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