A bombshell just landed from Ford, as the automaker announced the impending retirement of CEO Jim Hackett and his replacement by Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley, effective October 1st.
Ford said Tuesday that Hackett, 65, whose tenure has been the subject of much speculation and criticism as the company navigates wildly turbulent waters, “elected” to retire. He replaced the ousted Mark Fields in 2017. In his place rises Farley, who also joins the company’s board of directors.
The company said the two men will “work together on a smooth leadership transition over the next two months.”
Hackett’s time as CEO came as Ford attempted to navigate a rapidly changing landscape, one where autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles are widely seen as the future of transportation. On that front, Ford made big strides, creating a division (Ford Autonomous Vehicles, LLC) aimed at AV advancement. The results of its electric car efforts can be seen in the upcoming Mustang Mach-E SUV, which heralds a slew of electric models from the company.
In the mainstream, last year’s Ford Explorer/Lincoln Aviator stumbles have been superseded in the public’s mind by the debut of the next-generation F-150 and reborn Bronco family, the latter being arguably the year’s biggest industry reveal.
“I am very grateful to Jim Hackett for all he has done to modernize Ford and prepare us to compete and win in the future,” said executive chairman Bill Ford. “Our new product vision – led by the Mustang Mach-E, new F-150 and Bronco family – is taking shape. We now have compelling plans for electric and autonomous vehicles, as well as full vehicle connectivity. And we are becoming much more nimble, which was apparent when we quickly mobilized to make life-saving equipment at the outset of the pandemic.”
Hackett’s top lieutenant appeared primed for the top job, especially after the ouster of automotive head Joe Hinrichs back in February. Roles and titles in the company’s upper echelon changed rapidly over the last few years, with Hackett seeking to streamline operations, placing an emphasis on speed, nimbleness, and efficiency. Still, all of these changes were unable to budge the automaker’s stock price, which continued the steady slide seen during the Fields years.
As shares declined, many industry watchers offered up the prediction that Hackett’s tenure would not be a long one. Hackett apparently didn’t see it that way, claiming in late February that his close relationship with Bill Ford ensured that he wasn’t headed for the door. We don’t know what transpired in Dearborn this week. It’s possible that, with the recent product debuts, the time was just right to leave on a high note. Hackett suggests as much.
In this changing of the guard, Bill Ford says he sees the right stuff in Farley.
“Jim Farley matches an innate feel for cars and customers with great instincts for the future and the new technologies that are changing our industry,” Ford said. “Jim’s passion for great vehicles and his intense drive for results are well known, and I have also seen him develop into a transformational leader with the determination and foresight to help Ford thrive into the future.”
Hackett won’t disappear entirely after October 1st, a move that points to an amicable departure. He’ll serve as special advisor to Ford through March of next year.
“My goal when I took on the CEO role was to prepare Ford to win in the future,” Hackett said. “The hardest thing for a proud, long-lived company to do is change to meet the challenges of the world it’s entering rather than the world it has known. I’m very proud of how far we have come in creating a modern Ford and I am very optimistic about the future.”
For Farley, he offered the following praise:
“I have worked side-by-side with Jim Farley for the past three years and have the greatest confidence in him as a person and a leader,” he said. “He has been instrumental in crafting our new product portfolio and redesigning our businesses around the world. He is also a change agent with a deep understanding of how to lead Ford in this new era defined by smart vehicles in a smart world.”
Farley, 58, jumped ship from Toyota to Ford back in 2007. Stating that he’s “honored by the opportunity,” Farley said Hackett “laid the foundation for a really vibrant future” for the automaker.