As the automaker’s stock price continues to drop, Ford Motor Company announced that Jim Hackett will be taking over as CEO, abruptly ending Mark Field’s tenure at just under three years.
The change comes despite Ford reporting record profit in 2015. However, the company has been criticized for its slow shift into the digital future, and announced plans to cut 1,400 white-collar jobs just last week.
Hackett will work closely with Ford chair Bill Ford Jr. to speed up decision-making, cut costs, and push the automaker into what it sees as a digital transformation-led future best illustrated by Silicon Valley icon Elon Musk and his company Tesla Motors.
Hackett has been in charge of the company’s Smart Mobility division since its inception just over a year ago as part of Ford’s transition into smart mobility services such as autonomous vehicles and the company’s own car-sharing GoDrive service. Previously, Hackett was CEO of Steelcase, a furniture company, and the athletic director for the University of Michigan.
While Hackett does not have a tech background, he is reportedly held in high regard within Silicon Valley.
“As you know the Silicon Valley culture is very, very different than industrial midwest, and to see [Hackett] not only navigate that so well, but to be held in such high regard there, made an impression on me,” said Ford Jr. in a press call reported by Business Insider.
Hackett will also be facing the task of luring Silicon Valley types into the automotive industry. Ford Jr. was impressed by his ability to convince former San Francisco 49er’s head coach Jim Harbaugh to leave the West Coast and take the head coach job at the University of Michigan. While sports fans may be impressed, luring a former coach back to his alma matter doesn’t necessarily translate to luring tech experts.
To run Ford’s actual business, the company promoted two other executives: Jim Farley has taken on the role of executive vice president and president of global markets, while Joe Hinrichs is now Ford’s executive vice president and president of global operations.
Whether or not the change in leadership is enough to convince investors disappointed in the company’s slow-moving mentality under Fields is up in the air. On Monday, Ford shares rose just 2.1 per cent. Over the last year Ford shares have dropped roughly 16 per cent amidst shareholders concerns in declining automobile sales and the threat of the autonomous future.
“There’s just nothing out there that looks like it will get the stock moving,” Gary Bradshaw, an analyst at Hodges Capital, said to BNN. “The change in [Ford]’s leadership does not solve the structural problems facing the industry. GM is in the same boat. They don’t have a car out there like a Tesla that is getting people excited and saying they need to buy it.”
Over the same period of time, General Motors Co stocks jumped up about 8 per cent, while shares of Telsa rocketed up by nearly 41 per cent.
Ford most recently made headlines on ITBusiness.ca in October 2016, when it inked a deal with BlackBerry to develop in-car software.