Alan Mulally, the CEO and president of Ford Motor Company, spoke to a packed house on Friday afternoon, drawing such a large crowd that organizers were forced to scramble last minute to find a second building with more seats for the overflow audience.
Mulally geared his lecture, held at the Stamps Auditorium in the Walgreen Drama Center on North Campus, to appeal to the engineers in the audience. In his speech, Mulally stressed the importance of innovation and creativity in engineering design. He also fielded questions from the audience, mostly comprised of College of Engineering students and engineering professionals.
Mulally discussed how automaker Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company on the principles of innovation and efficiency. He also talked about plans to maintain the company’s history of building creative and innovative car designs.
“When Henry Ford asked people what they wanted, they said they wanted a faster horse,” Mulally said. “But he was already thinking ahead of that.”
Despite the recent economic difficulties facing Detroit automakers, Mulally said he has confidence in the American auto industry’s long-term ability to compete in the global market.
“I am not concerned with Ford competing with anybody in the world,” Mulally said.
Mulally talked about how globalization and economic policy relates to the auto industry, including how he disagrees with the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he believes is hurting the economy. NAFTA was an agreement established in 1994, which aims to eliminate trade barriers between the United States, Canada and Mexico. Critics argue that the treaty leads to job losses in the U.S.
“This is not a free trade agreement that makes sense,” Mulally said.
Mulally has been the CEO of Ford Motor Co. since 2006. He previously was the executive vice president of The Boeing Company and president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
About 600 people came to see Mulally speak at Stamps Auditorium, which seats 450 people. After it overflowed, the unseated audience members were directed to two classrooms in the nearby Chrysler Center, where a live screening of Mulally’s speech was shown.
Students enrolled in Engineering 407: Entrepreneurship Hour made up a large part of the audience. The College of Engineering asked Mulally to speak for the approximately 350 students enrolled in the class, who were required to attend Mulally’s lecture.
Engineering junior Laura Willming, a peer advisor for the college who helped run the event, said she organized a previous lecture where three Traverse City entrepreneurs spoke. Later this semester, organizers intend to invite Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, the founders of Skype, who will potentially Skype with the audience, Willming said.
Anup Jadhav, an Engineering freshman who is enrolled in Engineering 407, said Mulally’s talk fit well with the theme of the class.
“I understand more about entrepreneurship now,” Jadhav said. “It is nice to hear from leaders around the world in engineering.”
Aida Mandic, an LSA junior who is also enrolled in Engineering 407, said she found the lecture “inspiring.”
“(Mulally) said ‘necessity is the mother of innovation,’ and I really believe that,” Mandic said. “Wherever you need something, is where you will find genius.”