Ford Puts New CEO in the Driver’s Seat

Ford's logo.

Image credit: rvlsoft / Shutterstock

On Monday, Ford replaced its current chief executive, Mark Fields, with Jim Hackett, who had been responsible for the Ford subsidiary that works on autonomous vehicles. During Fields’ three-year stint as CEO, Ford has seen losses in both sales and profits. Although the U.S. automotive industry as a whole has been soft, Ford’s sales are down 25% this year, and first quarter profits fell by 30%, which is a far greater decline than its competitors.

Ford’s board was critical of Fields’ failure to keep pace with companies like Tesla, General Motors, and Google in the development of self-driving cars. Ford has not only fallen behind these companies in this area, but it has also failed to deliver profitable sales of their existing models despite the fact that, at the recent annual meeting, Fields said that Ford was capable of staying competitive in the current automotive market while also “keeping one foot in the future.” Ford promised to have a fully autonomous car on the road by 2021. But the Board felt that was not soon enough to beat the competitors who are already testing such vehicles.

Other issues have dogged Fields during his time at Ford. Ford has had a number of safety recalls that have raised concerns about its ability to insure quality. Fields was also involved in a failed plan to build an assembly plant for small cars in Mexico. And as recently as last week, Fields cut 1,400 jobs in an effort to improve the bottom line. But the stock price continued to decline.

The appointment of Hackett to the top job is a signal that the Board sees self-driving cars as the wave of the future and will be putting more pressure on the new CEO to successfully and more quickly develop a self-driving automobile that can compete in the marketplace.

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