‘Car guy’ Jim Farley new boss at Ford
Jim Hackett, Ford’s CEO since 2017, is leaving the company and will be succeeded by James D. Farley, at the moment COO of the Dearborn-based car manufacturer. Farley is a real ‘car guy’ who began his career at Ford in 2007, coming from Toyota.
The one Jim has to take over from the other in a period when the company is in deep restructuring. He still has to convince many unhappy investors who look enviously at the course of a carmaker like Tesla, while that of Ford has halved during the last five years.
Coming from outside
Jim Hackett (65) was not a real car guy. He came from the furniture business (Steelcase) and became a member of the board at Ford in 2013. At Ford, he occupied himself with rather ‘marginal’ subjects like shared mobility before he was suddenly called to lead the company in 2017.
His predecessor, Mark Fields, was pushed toward the exit by unhappy shareholders who didn’t appreciate the stock price going down even though the company made money. Hackett’s venue started an intense period of restructuring of the company, intending to save $11 billion.
At the same time, Hackett pushed investments in electrification and the autonomous car. He completely repositioned the brand’s portfolio, focusing on bigger (money earning) cars like pickup trucks, SUVs, and likewise, and abandoning smaller cars and sedans of all kinds.
Surviving the crisis
Under Hackett’s reign, profits have gradually receded, but the company is surviving the corona crisis relatively well, containing the losses and trying to redress sales as soon as possible. It recently presented the new F-150 pickup, the best-sold car in the US, and organized the comeback of the legendary Ford Bronco.
Ford has noted an operational loss of $1,9 billion in the second quarter of this year. Still, at the same time, net profit rose because of the VW investment in a joint project (Argo) regarding autonomous cars.
Real car nut
Jim Farley (58) is a real car nut. In his free time, he races oldtimer race cars (he has a genuine GT 40) in classic races. He started his automotive career at Toyota in 1990 and climbed in the ranks of Japan’s number one carmaker, where he became general manager of Toyota’s luxury brand, Lexus, before joining Ford in 2007.
His most remarkable feats at Toyota were the introduction of the first (and very successful) Toyota Yaris and the rollout of the Scion brand in the US.
At Ford, he climbed the ladder once more, leading markets all over the world and restructuring the Lincoln brand. From 2015 to 2017, Farley led Ford of Europe, after that returning to the States to direct Ford’s new strategy for the future. The current COO (since February) will take over officially the reins of the company on the 1st of October 2020.
Steer out of dangerous waters
Farley’s job won’t be easy. “The road Mr. Farley and Ford have to follow will be everything except easy,” says analyst Michelle Krebs from Cox Automotive. “The car industry is having difficulties adapting to new technologies, new worldwide regulations, and the growing expectations of demanding clients.”
“But in periods of transition, leaders with big dreams and emotions can often reach the summit. This can certainly be the case with Jim Farley,” she added. In his first telephone call after the news was spread, Farley insisted that the strategy of the company won’t change significantly.
The President of the Board at Ford, Bill Ford, great-grandson of the founder, has underlined the fact that the new CEO was a real car expert, that he races cars in his free time, and that his grandfather worked in a Ford factory.
Ford admitted that the board had again been looking for an outsider to replace Mr. Hackett, but that Farley had scored well in containing the pandemic crisis. “The choice for continuity can be a great force, certainly when you’re on the right track,” Bill Ford concluded.