Ford Replaces CEO Mark Fields With Jim Hackett

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Hackett, an OH native who played football at U-M under legendary coach Bo Schembechler, has run Ford Smart Mobility, a new unit established to oversee and coordinate the company's forays in autonomous driving, ridesharing and other ventures, since March 2016.

"Hackett, together with Bill Ford, will focus on three priorities: Sharpening operational execution, modernizing Ford's present business and transforming the company to meet tomorrow's challenges", according to a company news release.

Executive Chairman Bill Ford, speaking Monday, compared Hackett to Alan Mulally, the CEO who took over and steered Ford through the Great Recession. Before that, he had been CEO of furniture and office space company Steelcase.

Hackett, 62, has led Ford's "smart mobility" unit, which includes autonomous vehicles and connectivity features, since March 2016.

He succeeds Mark Fields, 56, who has elected to retire from Ford after a successful 28-year career with the company, according to Ford. Ford also made investments in new mobility companies and announced it would have a self-driving shuttle on the road by 2021, but its efforts haven't swayed investors. Hackett will report to executive chairman Bill Ford and is recognized as a transformational business leader. Fields said the better fuel economy was good for the environment, but the 2014 switch required retooling factories, a delay that hit earnings in the short term for the sake of record profits a year later.

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In our interview, Fields said he wanted his "employees to be happy" and talked about traveling to Ford plants around the world, thinking about the "200,000 men and women that are relying us back in [the headquarters in] Dearborn".

"This is a radical move we think, for two main reasons: the incumbent is being usurped by a relative outsider; and the outsider comes from the Smart Mobility division at Ford", said Paul Moran of Northern Trust Securities.

Hackett's job will be to reinvent Ford into a new transportation company capable of prospering in a highly competitive and fast-changing business. "But over this same period Mary Barra and GM have produced even more impressive financial results by focusing on where GM can be profitable while removing business units showing little promise", Brauer said, referring to the GM chief executive. Ford created that subsidiary previous year to handle its investments in autonomous vehicles and new mobility services.

On Friday, Silicon Valley electric vehicle maker Tesla was valued at US$51 billion (S$71 billion), more than Ford's US$43 billion.

"You have to have one foot in today ... but also one foot in the future", Fields told reporters last month. This comes as investors are growing uneasy because the share price has fallen to nearly 40 per cent in three years. He previously served as president of Ford's Europe, Middle East and Africa.

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Marcy Klevorn, 57, is appointed executive vice president and president, Mobility.

"He and I sat down Friday and really decided this was the right time for him to go and for us to have new leadership", Bill Ford said.

Raj Nair will continue to serve as head of Ford product development, and will report to Hinrichs, a spokesman said.

"Also leaving the company is Ford's group vice president of communications, Ray Day, who will be replaced by Mark Truby, vice president of communications for Ford's Asia-Pacific operations".

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