News Column

The Final Say: Francisco Codina

November 2007, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Mike Traphagen

Francisco Codina

Francisco Codina, who was born in Cuba and immigrated to the United States with his family at age 13, began his career at Ford Motor Co. in 1977 as a zone manager for Ford's Customer Service Division in New Orleans. He earned multiple promotions, including the acceptance of two international assignments, before being named group vice-president, North America Marketing, Sales, and Service in March of 2006. In September, Mr. Codina announced he would retire on November 1, capping 30 years of service at Ford.

Were you a car buff at an early age?
I always loved cars. I noticed everything about them and could tell you, whether they were coming and going, about their horsepower, transmission, or which features they had. When we were kids, we'd find hubcaps and I could tell you if it came from a Ford, a Chevy, or whatever. As a teen, I loved two cars: the Ford Mustang I feel the same way about it today and the Chevy Super Sport.

What are the qualities you appreciate most in a vehicle?
My personal car is a Ford Mustang Shelby. It has a six-speed transmission ... [he proceeds to jokingly rattle off all of the car's features]. But it has balance for great handling and a lot of horsepower. When you're young, you just think about the horsepower. As you become more mature, the handling of the vehicle becomes a priority, but you still want that horsepower.

How did your career at Ford Motor Co. begin?
I wanted to be in the automotive industry, as a whole, but Ford had that iconic brand the fabric of America. When I walked in there 30 years ago, from day one, I knew it was where I belonged. I literally walked in and started answering phones. In those days, they didn't have a call center, so I was taking phone calls from Ford customers and answering questions about their vehicles.

What was the highlight of your career with Ford?
In the last four years, there was pressure on Ford's customer service division to help grow revenues and profits. Over the last 10 months, we were able to stabilize our retail share and we grew revenue, but we didn't do it through incentives. We did it the old-fashioned way, and it was tough to do in such a competitive environment.

How important is the U.S. Hispanic consumer market to Ford's future?
Extremely important. That's its highest area of growth. It's also important that Ford attracts Hispanics into its workforce so it can emulate the face of America.

How do you see the future of the U.S. auto market shaping up?
I think all of the Big Six Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Chrysler, Honda, and Nissan will learn to coexist. The days of the dominant market share are gone. You're going to see it look more like the European market where there are six players vying for 12 to 14 percent market share, and that's about it. But competition is a great thing because the consumer wins in the end, and it makes all of us better.

What made you decide to retire?
I knew that once I hit the 30-year mark, it was time. It's something I had discussed with my family, and I told my boss about my plans several months ago. My colleagues were surprised, but not my family. Working for 30 years in an industry that demands a tremendous amount of your time is a struggle for a family. Our kids are grown now, so this is an opportunity for my wife and I to do some traveling. Who knows? I may decide to do something else in a couple years. It's my choice.

How do you handle the speculation that follows when a high-profile executive vacates a position?
I told my wife, "Get ready. [The media are] going to put whatever take they want to put on this." Really, it's just part of being in the fish bowl. And in a position like this one, there's never a good time to leave. If things are going poorly, they say you were forced out. If things are going well, they say you're leaving for a better job. At the end of the day, it gave them something to write about. When I started 30 years ago, I never would have thought that anyone would care when I retired. So, what the heck.

Source: HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine and, Copyright (c) 2007 All Rights Reserved.

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