Fields is replaced by Jim Hackett, the former board member who took over a new mobility unit created by the company to expand into new areas of transportation. As the headof Ford Smart Mobility, he was tasked with helping Ford meet newmobility needs of the future, such as traffic congestion and technology, changing how people get around. Hackett will report to Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford.
Ford shares have fallen 40 percent since Fields took over the top spot from former CEO Alan Mulally, and upstart Tesla passed Ford in market value. Ford has also seen profits and market share decline, a slide that will be tough to reverse as the U.S. auto market cools off, prompting Ford to cut 1,400 salaried jobs. Part of the profit drain has been expensive recalls, prompting questions about Ford's quality at the recent annual shareholder meeting.
Ford says Fields has elected to retire after a 28-year career with the company. Fields has been with Ford for most of his career and worked hard to show Mulally and the board that he was the man for the top job. But the board has questioned his strategies, given the market's lack of response to initiatives to branch out to embrace more aspects of mobility, including ride-sharing, connectivity, and autonomous vehicles. Prior to the recent annual shareholder meeting, the board convened for an extra day for further clarification from Fields about his vision and strategy for the future.
At a press conference in Dearborn, Michigan, Bill Ford said the board met on Friday, and then he met with Fields. "We decided it was the right time for him to resign," Ford said. It was only at that time that Hackett was "activated" as the replacement. Bill Ford acknowledged the decision was not made hastily but would not say how long it has been in the works.
Gone with Fields is the head of communications, Ray Day, also a longtime employee and the man entrusted with drafting Ford's message. He is replaced by Mark Truby, a former Detroit News reporter and a person long viewed as a possible successor to Day. In another change, the communications team will report to Bill Ford, not Hackett.
Bill Ford will also assume a public policy role, meaning he will deal with state leaders. He planned to speak to Vice President Mike Pence today becausePresident Donald Trump is on an overseas trip.
Hackett was CEO of furniture giant Steelcase until 2014, and he has a strong relationship with Bill Ford. At age 62, he is viewed as an interim leader, but he told reporters today he does not feel old. "I plan to be here as long the board will have me," he said.
Possible longer-term replacements include Joe Hinrichs, 50, president of the Americas for Ford. Hinrichs will become executive vice president and president of Global Operations, effective June 1. That means he oversees product development, purchasing, quality, manufacturing and labor, and environmental and safety engineering. Hinrichs has been well respected and successful in his many posts around the world for Ford.
The other key executive is Jim Farley, 54, who has been head of Ford of Europe. He will become executive vice president and president of Global Markets on June 1, responsible for all the business units around the world as well as overseeing Lincoln and global sales and marketing. Hackett said Farley takes over some of the day-to-day operations that normally the CEO would handle. Farley has done some of his best work in the marketing field.
The third top-tier executive reporting to Hackett is Marcy Klevorn, 57, executive vice president and president of Mobility. Beginning June 1 she will oversee the Ford Smart Mobility subsidiary that Hackett used to run. She will also oversee IT, data, and analytics.
Fields had about 20 direct reports, but Hackett will likely have half of that. Among them will be the three top executives as well as Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks and the company's legal counsel.
More announcements are expected soon on who will fill in key positions, such as running operations in North America and Europe.
During the press conference, Bill Ford thanked Fields for putting the company in a good position for Hackett to orchestrate the transformational change that the board wants for the company during a time of unprecedented change in the industry. Hackett made big changes as CEO at Steelcase, including downsizing, and then again to fix problems at the University of Michigan athletic department and which resulted in hiring of coach Jim Harbaugh.
Bill Ford talked about the need to change the culture so that is it less hierarchical and operates more like a team around the world, not just in terms of how it's run but also in equally prioritizing core business with emerging business opportunities. Working as a team should speed up decision-making, he said.
It is a bit like Groundhog Day: Mulally was brought in to address a culture of infighting and corporate ladder-climbing and to unite a company that operated separately in each region of the world. Mulally rallied the troops under the One Ford mantra. Hackett's battle cry is union under the Blue Oval.
Bill said he did not want to compare Hackett to Mulally, but the two do share the ability to capture the hearts and minds of employees, something that is needed for the company to succeed.
"He and I think very much alike," Bill Ford said of Hackett.