New Ford Chief Is Ready to Start Tinkering Under the Hood
By Christina Rogers
DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co.'s new boss spent the summer touring the auto maker's global operations, brainstorming with his executives on new business concepts and even paying a visit to an electric car maker in Silicon Valley that his predecessor had considered buying.
Now, he is ready to start tinkering under the hood.
Jim Hackett was promoted in May to chief executive after the board ousted then-CEO Mark Fields, amid concern about the company's strategy. After spending several months asking questions and strategizing, the 62-year-old former office-furniture executive is set to provide an update on Ford's progress at an investor meeting Oct. 3.
Mr. Hackett is expected to show how Ford is streamlining its core business while pursuing futuristic ideas. The 114-year-old company survived the recession last decade far better than its Detroit competitors, but now feels growing pressure from tech companies and traditional rivals in the emerging era of self-driving cars and ride-sharing services.
Wall Street has yet to fully embrace Ford's leadership change at a time when U.S. car sales are softening. Ford's stock has risen 10% since Mr. Hackett took charge but investors are still looking for a firmer strategic road map.
Under Mr. Hackett, the company's leadership team set up several mini war rooms in conference spaces at Ford's Dearborn, Mich., headquarters, according to people familiar with the matter. Executives have huddled there to sketch out new concepts -- often on sticky notes and sheets of paper stuck to the wall -- in an effort to shake up the company's thinking on everything from its culture to branding.
"We expect Ford's next strategy to be more open to partnerships, new structures, new entities, and far greater emphasis on all-electric" vehicles, a Morgan Stanley auto analyst, Adam Jonas, wrote in a recent research note. "We are not convinced investors are prepared for the required sacrifice to near-term profit."
Other analysts say Mr. Hackett needs to rekindle Ford's competitiveness with certain peers and boost its profit margin. General Motors Co., for instance, has shown a greater willingness to make bold cost-cutting moves, including exiting its money-losing European operations, while at the same time focusing more sharply on future technologies.