Ford names Jim Hackett as new CEO in push to build self-driving cars
Ford has announced that the head of their driverless car division, Jim Hackett will now be taking over the historic car manufacturer as its new CEO.
This comes after the resignation of Mark Fields in a sudden regime change, who is leaving the post after just under three years.
It is hoped that Hackett will lead the company to the next stage of the industry’s evolution which is driverless electric cars.
Jim Hackett was heading up the smart mobility unit that housed Ford’s autonomous vehicle projects and is close to the executive chair, Bill Ford Jr. who is the great-grandson of the company’s founder Henry Ford.
Bill Ford Jr. said Hackett was a “transformational leader” who would modernise the business by exploring areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics and 3D printing.
The two men have decided on a new strategy to make decisions faster, by having a more centralised control with the aim of “breaking the hierarchy down”.
Although Ford as a company is doing well with a pre-tax profit of $10.4bn last year, the company is not as desirable as it once was, with Wall Street and its stock declined by 37% under Fields leadership.
This year Ford has been overtaken in stock market value by newcomer Tesla, which specialises in driverless electric cars, as investors focus on the future of transport.
It also hasn’t helped that the 114-year-old company has also been outpaced by traditional rivals such as General Motors, which posted rising first-quarter profit this year, while Ford’s earnings slumped.
Ford Jr said the decision that Fields would retire was reached on Friday May 18 but admitted there had been discussions for some time. Fields, pay deal last year was worth $22m (£17m) and he is in line for a payoff worth $14.3m.
Ford hope that his successor will have a firmer commitment to driverless vehicles and this from the company whose founder introduced the assembly line production method that dominated car manufacturing throughout the 20th century.
In February, Ford announced a $1bn investment over five years in the artificial intelligence software company Argo AI, as part of its attempt to make autonomous cars a reality and have a driverless car on the road by 2021.
Jessica Caldwell, who is a senior analyst at Edmunds said:
“If we’ve learned anything from the phenomenon of [Tesla chief executive] Elon Musk, it’s that Wall Street likes a tech/innovation guy,”.
“Putting the head of their mobility division at the helm indicates Ford is trying to send a strong message to stockholders that the company intends to be a dominant player in the future of mobility.”
Hackett, who is 62 does not bring a wealth of technological expertise to the CEO role as he previously spent 30 years with the office furniture company Steelcase, followed by a short spell as interim athletic director at the University of Michigan.
Despite his inexperience in technological expertise, he has been credited with a free-thinking approach in both positions and was described by Ford Jr as a “futurist” who was well connected in Silicon Valley.
The development of autonomous vehicles is a fast-growing industry and Ford expect to roll out a driverless car by 2021.