Jim Hackett is not a prototypical car guy. Nor is he a straight-line thinker or talker. But after more than two years as CEO of Ford, amid some head-scratching and skepticism, his unorthodox methods and esoteric train of thought are making some sense and showing signs they might pay off.
The former Steelcase CEO has a business history and affinity with Ford executive chairman Bill Ford, which led to Hackett first becoming a board member and then CEO after Mark Fields was let go.
Hackett is fully aware of his outsider status and the controversy surrounding his tenure. But heâ€™s convinced he is setting Ford on the right course with a mix of traditional Rust Belt waysâ€”yet more cost cuttingâ€”and new ideas about what people want from a vehicle.
Ford raised eyebrows with plans to ditch traditional sedans for car-platform vehicles sporting different body shapes. And the automaker disappointed Wall Street with promises (but few details) of electric and autonomous vehicles.
Itâ€™s only recently that actions have spoken louder than words with vehicle launches and burgeoning partnerships with VW, Rivian, and Argo AI to get future tech on the road faster. Ford stock remains below $10 a share, but analysts have started to appreciate the execution of Hackettâ€™s plans and forecast earnings to increase, citing the restructuring, product mix, partnerships, and strategic actions.
Hackett continues to view a future where technology is the star but in a seamless, almost recessive role, working in the background to improve the vehicle and how the driver interacts with it.
Heâ€™s also taking a page from Tesla CEO Elon Musk in mulling over how manufacturing and IT processes can change. Hackett likes to tell the story of the Mustang he ordered for his wife that was quarantined for a bad part. â€œThey lose her car, and it doesn’t come for 95 days,â€� he recalls. â€œI ask, â€˜Whatâ€™s the average time for delivery?â€™ They say, â€˜81 days.â€™ I say, â€˜What was it 20 years ago?â€™ They say, â€˜81 days.â€™ Unacceptable today when overnight parcels from Amazon have changed peopleâ€™s expectations,â€� especially when Ford can roll a new F-150 off the assembly line every 53 seconds.
Hackett likes this kind of â€œundercover bossâ€� peek. He recently had senior executives don jeans and join him at a dealership where they watched customers fill out service orders and technicians wrench on cars. They also observed old-school IT practices in a world that moves at the speed of fingers on a smartphone. â€œI’m staring at all these processes, saying, â€˜They haven’t shrunk fast enough, or they haven’t sped up.â€™ Itâ€™s not our finest depiction of being modern.â€�
Because of these real-world experiences, â€œIâ€™m spending all my time thinking about the future of the factory and the future of IT systems right now,â€� he says. Heâ€™s asking questions such as why the FordPass app can start a car on a cold morning but canâ€™t also open the garage door. â€œThis actually is a hint into the way my brain thinks.â€�
To get others thinking the same way, he has worked to shed the companyâ€™s Mad Men look and feel with assistants guarding access to executives and too many walls and org charts to break down. He removed a third of the bureaucracy and cut thousands of jobs. â€œItâ€™s starting to feel like our team,â€� he recently told the board.
How long will Hackett stay in the job to see his vision through? â€œWell, I got to have that discussion with my wife of 43 years first, and then one of my best friends is Bill Ford, so Iâ€™ll have that discussion, but we donâ€™t talk about it,â€� he says. â€œI didnâ€™t come into the job saying, â€˜I got X amount of time.â€™â€�
Hackett, at 64, doesnâ€™t want to lose younger executives eying his seat. â€œThe bigger issue is to make sure we have the right succession and I get out of the way for the next team,â€� he says. A succession plan is in place with strong candidates. Obvious frontrunners are president of automotive Joe Hinrichs, who runs daily operations globally, and president of new businesses, technology, and strategy Jim Farley, who is focused on the future. â€œWe have lots of options,â€� Hackett says with confidence.
The post Ford Future Plans: CEO Jim Hackett on EVs, Company Changes, and More appeared first on MotorTrend.
Source: Motor Trend Magazine RSS Feed