June 28, 2017

New Ford chief executive to drive push towards EVs and robotics

31 May 2017, 03:50 | Archie Newman

New Ford CEO Hackett transformed Steelcase, football program

Jim Hackett is the new Ford Motor Co. chief executive officer image

On May 22, USA auto manufacturer Ford confirmed reports that James Hackett, who runs the company's self-driving division, will replace current CEO Mark Fields, who has resigned with immediate effect.

Jack Nerad, the editorial director for the vehicle shopping site Kelley Blue Book, told the AFP news agency: "Mark Fields was given the almost impossible task of making the utterly conventional auto manufacturer, Ford Motor Company, into a high-tech information-style company with share values to match".

"(Auto companies) generate tremendous value for shareholders", but investors don't appreciate that, he said. He, however, built his reputation as a business leader in the furniture industry. "We want people to come to work thinking they can have a great day here", he said. Part of this investment is in building a data center in Dearborn, as per Detroit News.

William C. Ford Jr., the company's chairman, said in an interview that he had subsequently met with Fields and that they had "decided mutually" that Fields would retire after 28 years with the company.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Want to get a glimpse of the unique challenges that faced Mark Fields when he was the CEO of Ford? And in the realm of self-driving cars, Ford and the rest of the industry are staring down deep-pocketed competitors such as Google and Apple.

Ford Motor's many flubs under Mark Fields were becoming existential for the $43 billion carmaker's founding family. But how about all the other cars that are more than a year old?

As part of a company shakeup, Fields has announced his retirement and Ford has declared Hackett's job is to "strengthen operations" and "transform for the future".

It bought shuttle-van startup Chariot for $US65 million, which will eventually integrate with Ford's bike-sharing service GoBike when it launches in 2018.

Hackett starts leading the automaker as it faces plateauing industry sales and arguably unprecedented pressure from Wall Street for the automaker to outline a clear strategy as it moves into becoming a "mobility" company - efforts Hackett, a former Ford board member of three years, has led for the automaker since March 2016. "And I think that's something very much that you'll see with Jim". And Wall Street has expectations for auto companies - quarterly profits.

Ford is working on an electric sports utility vehicle with 300 miles of range, but it is not due out until 2020.

Marcy Klevorn, 57, is appointed executive vice president and president, Mobility. "The appearance from the outside is that they aren't in a position of leadership". Now US sales are slipping and Ford's profit margins are trailing those of larger rival General Motors.Fields' abrupt dismissal caught nearly all at Ford by surprise, but concerns about the company's direction have been brewing for some time.

"If their promises are true, then they should be in a position of strength", he said, though "that's a long lead time". Some 35 percent of them also voted to scrap the dual-class share structure that gives the descendants of Henry Ford two-fifths of the vote with less than 2 percent of the stock.

"We need to speed up our decision-making, we need to invest our capital where we can create value, and we have to move decisively to address underperforming areas", Bill Ford told reporters during a press conference Monday.

But Schuster cautioned falling victim to the same pitfalls that helped trip up Fields. I mean, we went to all aluminum, we introduced the eco-boost engine, which allowed people to downsize their engines in a space where some people said customers will never accept smaller engines. It's little secret that the board was frustrated by the pace of technological change at Ford, not to mention a stagnant stock price despite profitability.

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