DETROIT — When Jim Hackett was offered the position as CEO of Ford Motor Co. last May, he almost declined.
In fact, he initially suggested someone else within the company for the job instead.
"I needed time with my family and a deep moment to think about it," Hackett, who had retired three years earlier as CEO of the furniture maker Steelcase and at the time was chairman of Ford Smart Mobility, said Tuesday at the Automotive News World Congress. "These aren’t hobbies, running a big company."
It was ultimately Hackett’s family who convinced him to say yes. His wife, Kathy, said that he'd regret saying no by the time he turned 75.
His two sons each wrote him separate letters: one about great leaders in history who made their mark after the age of 62, Hackett’s age now, and the other about what the automotive industry could become.
“I’m so happy about saying yes," he said. “Everything that was hesitant was gone. I'm so excited about what we can do in this business."
Hackett said he's working on improving Ford's fitness, which he described in detail to investors last October. That includes cutting $14 billion in costs.
Ford will focus more on SUV production and pare back its sedan offerings. It's also placing big bets on autonomous and electrified vehicles, announcing Sunday that its investment in hybrids and plug-in cars would total $11 billion between 2015 and 2022.
"The clarity of what this future is, is undeniable to me," Hackett said.
The key, he said, will be looking into the future, to ahead of where Ford and the rest of the industry need to be. He praised Tesla CEO Elon Musk for sometimes looking "500 years" into the future.
Hackett already has made big changes to the company, including changing its hierarchical structure. He has fewer direct reports than predecessor Mark Fields, and said he has "three or four" viable candidates to replace him as CEO.
"I have zero concerns about the executive bench," he said. "There are people there today that could be sitting here."