"Jim Hackett is the right CEO to lead Ford during this transformative period for the auto industry and the broader mobility space." — Bill Ford Jr.
Ford Motor Co. fired CEO Mark Fields after less than three years at the helm of the second-largest US automaker and replaced him with Jim Hackett, the chairman of Ford's forward-looking Smart Mobility division.
The news was confirmed Monday morning after Forbes first reported the move late Sunday. Fields has come under pressure for the company's flagging stock price, which has sank nearly 40 percent during his stint as CEO. Ford shares had a slight pre-market bump Monday morning but were back around $10.87, their Friday close price. In a statement, the company said Fields was retiring.
The 56-year-old Fields had led Ford since mid-2014, when he took over from Alan Mulally, the popular CEO tapped by executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. to carry out the company's turnaround. Previously, Fields was COO, president of the company's Americas division, and CEO of Mazda when it was controlled by Ford. He'd been with the company since 1989.
Hackett is charged with improving Ford's operational execution, modernizing its business, and transforming it to meet future challenges, the company's statement said. That means he'll focus on everything from fixing its underperforming areas, go-to-market strategy, and culture. Ford also said Hackett will lead a push to prioritize areas like three-dimensional printing, advanced robotics, and artificial intelligence.
"We're moving from a position of strength to transform Ford for the future," Bill Ford Jr. said in a statement. "Jim Hackett is the right CEO to lead Ford during this transformative period for the auto industry and the broader mobility space. He's a true visionary who brings a unique, human-centered leadership approach to our culture, products and services that will unlock the potential of our people and our business."
Under Fields, Ford launched solid products like the latest generation of the F-150, expanded its performance business, and refined its infotainment systems, but critics argued the company appeared to be treading water as Tesla, General Motors, and other competitors grew in emerging areas like electric vehicles. Fields also had the unenviable task of following Mulally, who famously turned down a federal bailout during the darkest days of the 2008-09 recession and then returned the company to profitability.
Hackett, 62, led Steelcase, a Grand Rapids, MI, furniture maker, for 20 years. He joined Ford's board of directors in 2013 and took over as chairman of its Smart Mobility division in 2016, focusing on autonomous technology, data, and emerging services. He also served as interim athletic director of the University of Michigan in 2014-2016.
"I am so excited to work with Bill Ford and the entire team to create an even more dynamic and vibrant Ford that improves people's lives around the world, and creates value for all of our stakeholders," Hackett said in a statement. "I have developed a deep appreciation for Ford's people, values and heritage during the past four years as part of the company and look forward to working together with everyone tied to Ford during this transformative period."
Meanwhile, Ford announced several other moves as it reshapes its executive team. Ford of Europe chief Jim Farley is named president of global markets; Joe Hinrichs takes over global operations after leading the company's Americas division; and Marcy Klevorn takes over as president of mobility. Ford also named a new communications chief, Mark Truby, to replace Ray Day. Additionally, Paul Ballew is named the company's chief data and analytics officer.