Ford CEO Mulally says talked to GM's Whitacre

DETROIT Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:25pm EST

Ford Motor Co President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally speaks during the launch ceremony of Ford's 'Figo' car in New Delhi September 23, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/B Mathur

Ford Motor Co President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally speaks during the launch ceremony of Ford's 'Figo' car in New Delhi September 23, 2009 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/B Mathur

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co Chief Executive Alan Mulally said in a CNBC interview on Thursday that he had talked this week with General Motors Co Chairman and Chief Executive Ed Whitacre.

Mulally, who Ford hired away from Boeing Co three years ago, did not discuss details of his conversation with Whitacre. Whitacre became chairman of GM in July and was named CEO on December 1 with the resignation of CEO Fritz Henderson.

"Well, matter of fact, we did talk yesterday," Mulally said in an interview with Jim Cramer on CNBC. "He's reaching out just the way that I did when I came in."

Whitacre, the former head of AT&T and an auto industry outsider, announced a management shake-up three days after he was named acting CEO. More executive changes have followed.

"You want to be supportive because we have a lot of industry issues that we work together," Mulally said of his conversation with Whitacre.

Mulally said he had talked with other industry executives, including former GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, when he joined Ford as an industry outsider in 2006.

Wagoner was ousted as head of GM in March by the Obama administration during the automaker's struggle to reorganize its operations. GM emerged from a government-funded bankruptcy in July nearly 61 percent owned by the U.S. Treasury.

In October, former auto task force head Steve Rattner said in a Fortune Magazine article that Wagoner had cautioned the administration against bringing in an outsider when it sought his resignation from GM, citing daily conversations Wagoner had with Mulally after the former Boeing executive joined Ford.

"I don't remember it that way," Mulally said. "I will say that when I arrived I reached out to all of the industry insiders, including Rick, and Rick was very very supportive."

Ford, the only large U.S. automaker not to reorganize under a U.S. government-supported bankruptcy in 2009, posted a third-quarter profit that surprised Wall Street analysts and now expects to be full-year profitable in 2011.

Analysts have credited Mulally broadly for Ford executing on a turnaround despite a downturn that has pushed U.S. auto industry sales to the worst levels since the early 1980s.

(Reporting by David Bailey; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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