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Ford Replaces CEO With Head of 'Smart Mobility' Unit

Ford Motor Co. has fired CEO Mark Fields and will replace him with James Hackett, head of the automaker’s Smart Mobility arm, as part of a broad management shakeup.

The news was reported earlier by Forbes, the Associated Press and The New York Times and confirmed by a company statement.

James Farley, president of Ford’s Europe, Middle East and Africa business, will take on a larger role as executive VP and president for global markets, which includes oversight of global marketing sales and service as well as responsibility over the Americas; Europe, Middle East and Africa and Asia Pacific. He also gains oversight of Lincoln Motor Company.

Ray Day, Ford’s head of communications, will be replaced by Mark Truby, who currently heads Ford’s Asia Pacific communications. Joe Hinrichs, head of Ford North America, was appointed executive VP and president for global operations. Marcy Klevorn, group VP-information technology and chief information officer, was appointed leader of the Smart Mobility unit that was formed last year.

The automaker called a press conference for 9:45 a.m. eastern time.

Hackett, 62, former CEO of office furniture maker Steelcase, was on Ford’s board from 2013 until last year, when he took charge of Ford Smart Mobility. Ford created that subsidiary last year to handle its investments in autonomous vehicles and new mobility services. Fields has been pouring billions into self-driving cars and ride-sharing experiments as its traditional car business has struggled in a slowing U.S. market.

Ford’s ad agency is WPP’s GTB, which handles the account globally.

Fields, 56, had been under pressure for the company’s lagging stock price and lower-than-expected profits so far this year. Shareholders and board members reportedly questioned Fields’ strategy for the future of the company, which relies on heavy investments in driverless and electric vehicle technology. Since Fields took over as CEO from Alan Mullally in July 2014, Ford’s stock price has fallen nearly 40 percent.

“The reality for any publicly traded company is that it tends to be beholden to its shareholders. Ford was no exception, and there had been grumblings about Mark Fields for a while now given Ford’s lagging stock performance,” said From Akshay Anand, an executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “Ford now has to hope Jim Hackett can right the ship, though he has his work cut out for him entering what is arguably the most competitive automotive environment, not to mention plateauing new car sales and rising incentives.”

Last week, Ford announced it would slash 1,400 salaried workers in North America and Asia as a cost-cutting move as it continues to spend on what it calls “emerging opportunities.” That type of move, normally reserved for distressed business units and economic downturns, came amid a relative boom time for the industry. But it had the outside appearance of being a knee-jerk reaction to the mounting pressure the company’s leadership was facing.

Before he was named CEO, Fields served in a number of positions, including chief operating officer and president of the Americas. During his time leading the Americas, Fields was the architect of Ford’s “Way Forward” plan to restructure the business as its profits disappeared during the last industry downturn. He also served as CEO of Mazda.

When he took over for Mulally in 2014, Fields inherited an automaker on the verge of posting record profits. He also oversaw the transformation of the profit-generating F-150 to include an aluminum body, as well as dozens of other product launches. Fields also appointed a separate president to head the Lincoln Motor Co. in an effort to revive the luxury brand.

Executives, including Chairman Bill Ford, praised Fields early on and said the transition between CEOs had been seamless. But Fields came under fire in recent years as Wall Street remained unimpressed with Ford’s profits and plans for the future. At last year’s annual meeting, one shareholder even asked to bring back Mulally — a popular figure who helped save the company during the financial crisis.

Michael Martinez is a reporter for Automotive News.

Ad Age reporter E.J. Schultz and Bloomberg News contributed to this story.

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