DETROIT — After leading Ford Motor Co. for 20 months, CEO Jim Hackett is still struggling to win over Wall Street.
Shares are down 22 percent during his tenure, and even big moves like an exit from the sedan market in America and a deal to align with Volkswagen AG to develop future models hasn't reversed the slide. Ironically, the Street criticizes Hackett for the same failing as his ousted predecessor Mark Fields: moving too slowly to fix Ford's shortcomings.
"Wall Street is just frustrated and tired of waiting," said David Whiston, an analyst with Morningstar Inc., who rates Ford the equivalent of a buy. "It doesn't look like they're moving quickly."
In a presentation to analysts last Wednesday, Hackett appealed for more patience and belief in his "thoughtful" approach to engineering an $11 billion restructuring of the company. Investors responded by sending shares down more than 6 percent, the biggest drop in a year.
On Wednesday, the automaker will post fourth-quarter earnings it has already signaled will be below expectations. And unlike rival General Motors, Hackett has declined to provide specific earnings guidance for this year, other than to say profits could improve as new models roll out.
"It feels like they still don't have a lot of details about their restructuring," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for researcher LMC Automotive. "Wall Street doesn't take to that very well. They want to be convinced that things are going to turn around, and the company is on the right path. Ford hasn't demonstrated that."
This wasn't the way it was supposed to be for Ford under Hackett, 63. He arrived on a mission to accelerate what he called the company's "clock speed." As CEO of office-furniture maker Steelcase Inc., Hackett outfitted the modern workplaces of Silicon Valley and established high-profile friendships with tech gurus like Steve Jobs. He was billed as bringing the Valley's urgent ethos to the 115-year-old automaker. Early on, the former University of Michigan football player spoke of putting a "shot clock" on executives to speed up decisions.
The plan going into last week's Detroit auto show was to show how some of Hackett's bigger bets are beginning to pay off. Ford introduced a redesigned Explorer and unveiled a partnership to develop commercial vehicles with VW. But Ford was criticized for taking nearly a decade to redesign an important model, and some analysts even viewed the VW deal as favoring the German automaker — at least until the two companies can deliver on the promise of a partnership on electric and self-driving cars.
By week's end, Hackett's boss, Executive Chairman Bill Ford, was defending his CEO's strategy and appealing for patience from Wall Street analysts frustrated that the company won't provide hard numbers on job cuts and financial targets.
"We can't really tip our hand beforehand on a lot of the things that we're doing," Ford said in an on-stage chat during the auto show with Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes. "So, we're having to sort of say to people, well, take our word for it. Well, analysts have models they have to create and taking your word for it doesn't fill out a model."
Morningstar's Whiston said of Ford: "They've been saying 'take our word for it' for a long time."