DETROIT -- Ford, in a sweeping management shake-up, named Jim Hackett, former CEO of Steelcase, as its new chief executive, replacing Mark Fields, who is stepping down amid pressure from shareholders over a slumping stock price.
Hackett, who also helped revive the University of Michigan football team by hiring Coach Jim Harbaugh during a tenure as interim athletic director, replaces Mark Fields, 56, who was recently pressured by board management and shareholders over a slumping stock price.
Executive Chairman Bill Ford, speaking Monday, compared Hackett to Alan Mulally, the CEO who took over and steered Ford through the Great Recession.
“Alan captured the hearts and minds of our employees and made them feel not only could we win but that we would win,” Ford told reporters. “I think that’s something that you’ll see very much with Jim. Jim is a cultural change agent."
Hackett, 62, most recently served as chairman of Ford Smart Mobility. Ford created that subsidiary last year to handle its investments in autonomous vehicles and new mobility services. Fields has been pouring billions into self-driving cars and ride-sharing experiments as its traditional car business has struggled in a slowing U.S. market.
“I do think the vision and our role in that future has to be better,” Hackett said. “I know that that can be better and we can build enthusiasm for Ford.”
Ford said that -- even after Mulally’s changes -- the company still was too reliant on a corporate hierarchy to get things done.
“Bureaucracy and hierarchy overwhelmed what could be faster decision making,” Ford said. “The clock speed at which the world is moving, and our competitors, really requires us to make decisions at a faster pace… And we have to trust our people to move fast. It’s not command and control.”
Hackett said much of his job will involve motivating the team at Ford, something he did while at U-M and Steelcase.
“The biggest challenge, is to have everybody see the future,” he said. “It’s our right to win there. We don’t have to cede that to anybody. Tesla, anybody.”
Ford said Fields has elected to retire from Ford after 28 years with the company. Ford said company directors made the decision after a Friday board meeting.
“Mark had a tremendous career at Ford and did great things,” Ford said. “He put us financially in a great position to chart the future.”
Of the decision to let Fields go, Ford said that “No decision like this is made hastily. There had been discussions for some time.”