New Ford CEO Jim Farley faces immediate challenges

Marketing guru Farley replaces retiring Jim Hackett

Jim Farley will take over as CEO of Ford on October 1, replacing Jim Hackett, who will retire from the company but continue to serve as a "special advisor." Hackett came to Ford in 2017 after retiring from furniture company Steelcase in 2014 after serving as its CEO for 20 years.

Farley joined Ford way back in 2007 as global head of marketing and sales, coming to the Blue Oval after a long and successful stint at Toyota and Lexus. He went on to serve as executive vice president and president, Ford Europe, Middle East and Africa, leading the European unit to record profitability and margins in 2016. He was reportedly the first person within the company to suggest that its new electric Mach-E be part of the Mustang brand. He was named chief operating officer in February of this year as part of a larger management shakeup.

In a statement, Executive Chairman Bill Ford said he was "very grateful" to Hackett and highlighted the Mustang Mach-E, recently unveiled 2021 F-150 and the off-road-ready Bronco family as high points of Ford's future. Ford's recent past, on the other hand, has been a bit rocky.

In 2018, investors were reportedly disappointed in the automaker's financial performance, and white-collar workers expressed anxiety at the company's restructuring plans.  That same year, Hackett claimed the automaker was "reinventing the American car" as it killed off sedans and hatchbacks in favor of crossovers, SUVs and more pickup truck variants. Hackett called 2018 "mediocre by any standard," despite the fact that the automaker reported a profit of around $7 billion.

In 2019, Hackett admitted to "overestimating the arrival of autonomous vehicles" after investing several billion dollars in their development. And that management shakeup in February of this year that we mentioned earlier came after a 2019 earnings report that was well short of expectations, with blame put on a terrible fourth quarter punctuated by the botched launch of the Explorer SUV and a $2.2 billion one-time pension cost.

Naturally, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic still in full gear, Ford sees more rocky times directly ahead in 2020. But even before that, Farley told investors that the automaker needed to cut $5 billion in warranty costs, successfully launch 10 key vehicles globally in the next two years and drastically cut material and logistics costs. Put simply, Farley is taking the reigns at Ford at a pivotal point in the automaker's long and storied history.

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