Southfield, Michigan (US): Ford Motor Co. is replacing embattled chief executive officer Mark Fields with Jim Hackett, a turnaround specialist who has been leading the automaker’s moves into self-driving cars and ride sharing.
Fields, 56, is retiring and Hackett will move up from his position as head of Ford’s Smart Mobility unit, according to a statement. Hackett, 62, revived office-furniture maker Steelcase Inc. as CEO from 1994 to 2014.
“This is a time of unprecedented change," Executive Chairman Bill Ford said during a press conference Monday. “A time of great change requires a transformational leader, and thankfully we have that in Jim."
Fields came under pressure from Ford’s board this month ahead of an annual shareholder meeting where investors excoriated management for a poorly performing stock price. Ford shares fell 37 percent during Fields’s almost three-year tenure, dropping the company’s market capitalization to below Tesla Inc. The automaker announced a salaried-worker buyout program last week to show it was moving to cut costs.
“It’s surprising how quickly Fields is being replaced," said Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive Management at the University of Applied Sciences in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany. “Ford isn’t exactly in crisis, but this development shows that shareholder value is more in focus," even as carmakers face pressure to invest in technology where the payoff is uncertain.
Ford also will shuffle the direct reports beneath Hackett, with Europe chief Jim Farley adding responsibility for the Americas and Asia Pacific regions and overseeing the Lincoln luxury brand. Joe Hinrichs, who had been leading the Americas, has been appointed president of global operations and will oversee areas including product development, manufacturing, labor, quality, purchasing and sustainability. Marcy Klevorn will take over Ford Smart Mobility after serving as chief information officer since January.
Ford shares were up 1.2 percent as of 10:18 a.m. in New York, after earlier rising as much as 2.4 percent, the biggest intraday jump in a month. The stock had dropped 10 percent through the close Friday, trailing the 6.4 percent gain for the S&P 500 Index.
Hackett joined Ford’s board of directors in 2013 and was appointed chairman of Ford Smart Mobility in March 2016. The unit was formed to accelerate Ford’s foray into emerging mobility services.
For two decades, Hackett guided Grand Rapids, Michigan-based office furniture maker Steelcase. He was recognized for predicting the office landscape would shift away from cubicles to an open-space environment and transformed the traditional manufacturer of office furniture, according to a profile on Ford’s website.
“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 said at the company’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. “When I think about ideas flowing freely without regard to hierarchy, I think about Jim."
Hackett led a major reorganization that involved deep cuts in Steelcase’s workforce, including personally pink-slipping the best man from his wedding, according to Automotive News. After Steelcase, Hackett served as interim athletic director of the University of Michigan at a time of turmoil and hired Jim Harbaugh to return the football team to its winning ways.
Ford’s board scheduled extra meeting time two weeks ago to drill Fields on his plans for reversing the company’s fortunes, a person familiar with the discussions said earlier this month. As CEO, he was pouring billions into self-driving cars and ride-sharing experiments as its traditional-car business has struggled more than General Motors Co. with a slowing U.S. market.
“Ford’s reputation with the investor community with respect to the secular pressures is that they are throwing a lot of things at the wall," Joe Spak, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a report Monday. “They are doing a lot. Some of it may be smart. But the overall communication hasn’t been great. A simpler message may be needed."
Mark Truby, who’s been overseeing Ford’s communications in Asia, will take over the department and succeed Ray Day, who plans to retire from the company next year.
Fields joined Ford in July 1989 and helped steer its businesses through several tough situations before he was named to the top job in July 2014.
In 2000, Fields became CEO of Mazda Motor Corp., in which Ford had a controlling stake at the time. He led a turnaround at Mazda with several Ford executives with whom he later worked to revive the U.S. automaker’s North American business.
After being promoted to chief operating officer in December 2012, Fields took over as CEO from Alan Mulally, the former Boeing Co. executive who led Ford through the global economic crisis and avoided the bailouts and bankruptcies that befell GM and Chrysler.
“Alan really captured the hearts and minds of our employees and made them feel that not only could we win, but that we were going to win and they were going to have fun on the journey," Bill Ford said. “That’s something you’ll see with Jim."
Fields was leading an overhaul of Ford’s business model so the company could take on self-driving cars from the likes of Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo and Uber Technologies Inc. He warned the cost of investing in new technologies would reduce profits last year and this year before rebounding in 2018.
Ford’s first-quarter adjusted earnings fell 42 percent, while GM appears on pace for another record annual profit. Net income at Ford plunged 38 percent last year. Bloomberg