DETROIT — Jim Hackett knew last Christmas that his time as CEO of Ford Motor Co. was running short.
While on a holiday trip in California, he met with Executive Chairman Bill Ford, who also happened to be in the state.
The two talked about the year — which had ended on a sour note financially for the company — and Hackett's future.
"We never really firmed up timing, but we were doing an assessment of where we were," Hackett told Automotive News on Tuesday. "It was like, how much more time do I have? I had put an outer limit: At 66, I really needed to go. At 65, I just thought it was time."
Hackett previously said Ford had a deep bench of executives who could succeed him.
"As I sat back and reflected on the leadership, there was one name I found, when I was integrated with him and his thinking, we hit home runs," Hackett said.
That name was Jim Farley, whom the company elevated to COO in February. If he already had the inside track to become the next CEO, he cemented the decision once the coronavirus hit the U.S.
As the Ford team scrambled, Farley worked with dealers to help ensure they would receive government loans, and he walked the factory floor at Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant before management ultimately decided to shut down manufacturing operations for two months.
"When the pandemic hit, Jim Farley so distinguished himself," Hackett said. "There's no script, there's no plan. The team was voicing to me how the accomplishments they made came from his leadership."