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