Ford CEO Mark Fields out, self-driving car boss taking over


Mark Fields 2006

Mark Fields 2006

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Ford [NYSF: F] announced Monday that President and CEO Mark Fields will be replaced with former Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett.

According to a report from Forbes, the change is because Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Jr. and the rest of the board have lost confidence in Fields' leadership capabilities. Additionally, there have been concerns Ford is lagging in the tech race for connected cars and self-driving technology.

While Ford is expecting a $9 billion pre-tax profit this year, market share is down and the company's share price is down 40 percent since Fields took over. Furthermore, Fields was heavily criticized two weeks ago at the annual shareholders' meeting for the performance of the company's share price. Ford responded by cutting 1,400 positions, some 10 percent of its salaried workforce.

Things were looking up for Fields as recently as last year. His income rose 19 percent in 2016, coming in at $22.1 million, so shareholders appear to have only turned sour in recent months.

Fields assumed the president and CEO roles in 2014 after the hugely successful reign of Alan Mulally, the mastermind behind the "One Ford" strategy for common products across all Ford markets. He started with Ford in 1989. Fields' previous job was chief operating officer and other prior roles included vice president, president of the Americas, and executive vice president of Ford of Europe and the now-defunct Premier Automotive Group.

Jim Hackett

Jim Hackett

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As for Fields's replacement, Hackett was previously CEO of the office furniture company Steelcase for 20 years and vice chairman for two more. He left Steelcase in 2015 and in 2016 joined Ford as the Chairman of Ford Smart Mobility LLC, a subsidiary that aims to make Ford an automaker and a mobility company that delivers connectivity, car sharing, and autonomous vehicle solutions. He had been a member of Ford's board of directors since 2013.

Hackett is credited with transforming Steelcase from a traditional office furniture manufacturer to a global leader and innovator that was one of the first to embrace open space work environments. Hackett also served as interim University of Michigan athletic director from 2014 to 2016, and was responsible for bringing in football coach Jim Harbaugh.

Working closely with Bill Ford, Jr., Hackett will focus on three priorities: 1) Improving operations to primarily enhance quality and deal with underperforming departments; 2) Modernizing Ford’s business to enhance innovation, speed decision making and improve efficiency; 3) Transforming the company to be ready for changing consumer needs and behaviors over time.

Ford announced several other key changes in its senior management structure on Monday.

Jim Farley, president of Europe, Middle East, and Africa, will head worldwide sales and marketing; Joe Hinrichs, president of the Americas, will become vice president of global operations; and Marcy Klevom, the current chief technical officer, will fill Hackett's vacated position at Ford Smart Mobility. Finally, Ray Day, head of communications, is being replaced by Mark Truby, the current vice president of Ford's Asia-Pacific region.

 
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