Fork in the road sees Ford and its chief ex­ec­u­tive part com­pany

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Alan Tovey

FORD boss Jim Hack­ett is to leave the US au­to­mo­tive gi­ant as it bat­tles a slump in de­mand due to the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

Mr Hack­ett will re­tire from the top job in Oc­to­ber and be re­placed by op­er­at­ing chief Jim Far­ley, amid an ex­ten­sive re­struc­tur­ing that in­volves 12,000 job cuts at the com­pany’s loss-making Euro­pean arm – one in five of the work­force – and a slim­ming down of its port­fo­lio.

The 65-year-old was a sur­prise an­nounce­ment for Ford chief ex­ec­u­tive in 2017, as he pre­vi­ously led an of­fice fur­ni­ture com­pany and had no ex­pe­ri­ence in the car in­dus­try.

When Mr Hack­ett took con­trol, the $26bn (£20bn) com­pany was seen as a lag­gard in the race to de­velop elec­tric ve­hi­cles and new tech­nol­ogy such as self-driv­ing cars. But Ford has raced to catch up with ri­vals over the past few years with a string of new projects in­clud­ing the Mus­tang Mach-E, an elec­tric car in­tended to breathe new life into one of the com­pany’s most fa­mous mar­ques.

How­ever, Mr Hack­ett has strug­gled to get Ford motoring along, with its share price fall­ing by 40pc dur­ing his ten­ure while the wider mar­ket rose.

There have also been mur­mur­ings of dis­con­tent within the com­pany about his lead­er­ship style, along with his per­for­mance.

Re­port­ing sec­ond-quar­ter fig­ures last week, Ford fell to a smaller loss than ex­pected with rev­enue down 50pc to $19.4bn and an ad­justed loss of $1.9bn. How­ever, the com­pany still fore­cast a full-year loss as lower sales be­cause of the pan­demic weighed and the com­pany faced the costs of re­tool­ing plants to build a new ver­sion of its best-sell­ing F-150 pick-up truck.

An­nounc­ing the change of lead­er­ship, chair­man Bill Ford said: “I am very grate­ful to Jim Hack­ett for all he has done to mod­ernise Ford and pre­pare us to com­pete and win in the fu­ture.”

Mr Hack­ett raised eye­brows in April when he an­nounced “there is no fu­ture” dur­ing an earn­ings call ex­plain­ing the com­pany’s $2bn loss. Among a string of gnomic musings, he added: “The na­ture of time brings to mind the no­tion of para­dox.”

The de­part­ing boss stuck to the script yes­ter­day. He 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.”

Mr Hack­ett praised Mr Far­ley’s work on Ford’s new prod­uct line-up, and said his re­place­ment has a strong grasp of the need to lead the mar­ket in an era de­fined by in­ter­net-con­nected “smart” ve­hi­cles.

Mr Far­ley joined Ford in 2007 as global head of mar­ket­ing and sales and went on to lead its lux­ury Lin­coln brand, Ford South Amer­ica, Ford of Europe and all Ford global mar­kets in suc­ces­sive roles, where he was iden­ti­fied as a fron­trun­ner for the top job. Pre­vi­ously he had worked for Toy­ota and Lexus.

Mr Hack­ett will re­main as a special ad­viser to the com­pany un­til March 2021.

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