DETROIT — Former Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields was fond of saying the automaker had "one foot in today and one foot in tomorrow."
His successor, Jim Hackett, rejected that two-pronged approach to the business, noting at his 2017 introductory press conference that "you won't hear us talking about emerging versus core." But by appointing Joe Hinrichs as president of automotive and Jim Farley as president of new business, technology and strategy last year, Hackett still effectively split the responsibilities of his top two lieutenants between today and tomorrow.
Hackett's latest management shake-up — the abrupt retirement of Hinrichs, 53, and the promotion of Farley, 57, to COO — was an admission that Ford needed a singular strategic vision more seamlessly integrating connectivity, electrification and emerging mobility services.
"It's my judgment the time is to move with urgency now to integrate and accelerate Ford's transformation into this higher-growth, higher-margin business," Hackett told reporters, calling Farley "a partner who will work together to unite the Ford businesses."
Farley's many responsibilities include oversight of product development, purchasing, manufacturing, marketing, sales, service and quality — in addition to his leadership of Ford Smart Mobility, Ford Autonomous Vehicles and the company's partnership with self-driving startup Argo AI.
"There will be no chasm in this relationship between all those capabilities, and that's the advantage we get with this move," Hackett said.
Farley's job will be to not only launch popular new products, but also to integrate new vehicle architectures with software that will allow Ford to collect data, offer over-the-air updates and better prepare for an autonomous future.
While that has essentially always been Ford's goal under Hackett, running the business along two parallel tracks proved troublesome, even with profit machines such as the F-series franchise. In a goodbye letter to employees, Hinrichs noted that Ford has missed its financial targets in each of the last four years, including a 99 percent drop in 2019 net income, and analysts were disappointed by the automaker's underwhelming 2020 outlook.
Although Hackett was hired as CEO to speed Ford's decision-making and move it away from the today/tomorrow paradigm Fields preached, the automotive newcomer said it has taken some time to learn how exactly Ford could "straddle these two eras."
"We cannot change all the vehicles at the same time, unlike a technology company," he said. "Architectures don't move that quickly. ... We're now in execution mode. What the company needs is to come together behind this vision."