DETROIT — Jim Hackett has been CEO of Ford Motor Co. for nearly as long as his predecessor, Mark Fields, held the job.
By some measures — Ford's languishing stock price, in particular — seemingly not much has changed from Fields' regime. But from Hackett's perspective, virtually everything has.
And at a stage when his predecessor was under growing pressure from Wall Street and the board of directors, Hackett is digging in for a longer-term stay.
"I see a dramatic improvement in the business," Hackett said in an interview last week at Ford's headquarters. "When I came in, it was my observation that it had been frozen a little bit, like caught in amber. Everything that was great about it was frozen. ... Ford needed to break the amber and start to transform."
Hackett points to changes that have touched on "almost every aspect" of the business, from what vehicles Ford builds to how it designs them. He has revamped the company's organizational structure, cut excess manufacturing costs and instituted other structural changes he says are "not always obvious" to Wall Street analysts. There have been 19 changes to Ford's product plan — nameplates either crossed out or inserted — since his arrival, he said.
Two and a half years in, Hackett finally can direct investors and employees to a sheet-metal embodiment of the philosophies he at times has struggled to convey: the Mustang Mach-E.
The electric crossover, set to reach dealerships late next year, is the first vehicle Hackett and his team could significantly influence. They scrapped plans for a compliance car to instead emphasize performance and design, later taking the controversial step of expanding the Mustang brand to help boost sales and profitability.
"We're hopeful the Mach-E is an exemplary story of the way we're trying to change Ford," Hackett told Automotive News. "It's an incredible turnaround in speed and quality and innovation, which is what we talked about 30 months ago that we want to bring to the company."
And it's a strategy Hackett plans to bring to other products — including the long-awaited Bronco and the next-generation F-150.