Ford's leadership team has taken Mulally's admiration of Toyota to heart. "I would love people in the future to say, 'There's Toyota and Honda and Ford,'" Mark Fields, Ford's head of North American operations, told USA Today.
That's a tall order in technical terms - debt, product and a globally divided product lineup still stand in the way. But even if Ford does reach Toyota's level of stability and integration - does it - or its customers - really want to?
Toyota and Honda have both been bemoaned by enthusiasts for their barely-there focus on enthusiast or performance cars. Honda still has the S2000 - limping along in its final year of production with no replacement planned. Toyota's sportiest vehicle is the Lexus IS-F, which though quick, isn't really on the same level as BMW's M3 or Mercedes' C63 AMG.
So will Ford's planned Taurus SHO, improved Mustang, Focus RS and yet unborn EcoBoosted sedans and coupes still have a place in an appliance-car future? Or will those very products bar Ford's entry into the country club of bland-but-profitable carmakers?
Given the exciting possibilities at Ford and its relatively strong position compared to the other Detroit carmakers, we're hoping the Blue Oval takes what it needs from Toyota and Honda in order to be profitable, but leaves the rest on the table.
Mid-sized sedans are the bread and butter of the North American industry, however, and so it will be Ford's Fusion and Fusion hybrid carrying the mantle forward. Whether that car is up to the task is yet to be proved.