Ford to replace CEO Mark Fields with James Hackett

Shake-up comes after board worries that company is falling behind rivals in move to autonomous and electric vehicles

Ford has replaced its chief executive Mark Fields, shaking up its key executive posts amid investor concerns the car company has failed to expand its core automotive business while falling behind rivals in developing autonomous and electric vehicles.

The US carmaker said Mr Fields (56) is being replaced by Jim Hackett (62), who looks after Ford's subsidiary that works on autonomous vehicles.

Mr Hackett was a long-serving chief executive of Steelcase, the office furniture company, and joined Ford last year as head of its smart mobility unit which includes driverless technology.

"Jim Hackett is the right CEO to lead Ford during this transformative period for the auto industry and the broader mobility space.," said Bill Ford, executive chairman.


Other changes will see Jim Farley, the Europe, Middle East and Africa president, and Joe Hinrichs, Americas director, assume larger roles.

Mr Farley has turned round Ford’s European business, bringing it back to profit at a time when General Motors has been pulling out of the market, while Mr Hinrichs has overseen strong sales of Ford’s F-150 series of pick-up trucks.

The move to replace Mr Fields, which was first reported by Forbes, comes two weeks after he was criticised during the annual shareholders meeting for Ford's worsening financial results.

During his three years at the helm, Mr Fields has seen Ford shares drop by 40 per cent.

Last week he announced the company was cutting 1,400 jobs, partly in response to mounting concerns from investors and directors over the company’s share price.

But analysts say that on his watch the company has failed to cut costs at its units making trucks and sport utility vehicles.

Ford’s profits for the first quarter fell $1.5 billion to $2 billion in its automotive segment, while it lost market share in the US. In contrast, Ford’s rival GM posted rising profits that beat expectations, with profits rising $700 million to $3.4 billion.

There were also concerns over Ford’s approach to the long-term trends that are sweeping the car industry. Under Mr Fields’ leadership, Ford has taken starkly different approaches to the future of the industry when compared with other carmakers.

Car companies are investing in electric and driverless technology and businesses that allow consumers to share or book car rides. While GM has already released a mass-market electric car, the Chevrolet Bolt, and will begin testing fleets of autonomous vehicles later this year, Ford is perceived as lagging behind in both technologies. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017