Ford COO Jim Farley to lead company, CEO Hackett to retire

DETROIT (AP) — Jim Farley will lead Ford Motor Co into the future as the global auto industry faces a new era of autonomous and electric vehicles.

The company named Farley, 58, as its new CEO effective on October 1, replacing Jim Hackett, who will retire after three years at the helm. Farley, who has been with Ford for more than a decade, had been Chief Operating Officer (COO) since February and clearly was being groomed for the top position.

He faces tough challenges as the industry emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. Ford is losing money and is transitioning from an ageing model line-up to new vehicles, including those powered by electricity. It is also in the midst of an USD11 billion restructuring plan to cut costs and bureaucracy and make money off its autonomous vehicle unit.

Executive Chairman Bill Ford, the great grandson of founder Henry Ford, said the board briefly discussed looking outside for a CEO, but was inspired by Farley’s leadership and felt the company is moving in the right direction. “We talked about it and we did throw some names around,” he said on a conference call. “Every time we did that, we always felt that Jim Farley rose to the top.”

As COO, Farley led the company’s global markets and product development. He was in charge as Ford rolled out a revamped F-150 pickup — the country’s best-selling vehicle — the new Bronco off-road SUV brand and the electric Mustang Mach-E SUV.

Farley, who was hired away from Toyota by then-CEO Alan Mulally in 2007 to run Ford’s marketing operations, said his main goal is for a smooth transition, but he has plans for the future that will be announced later.

The company, he said, would continue on the path set by Hackett, with priorities of reaching a 10 per cent profit margin in North America, seeking immediate material and warranty cost improvements, fixing under-performing businesses, maximising opportunities in commercial vehicles and outperforming the industry in rolling out new models.

The 117-year-old company, he said, would grow and expand where it is strong, like making the transition from internal combustion engines to electric powered commercial vehicles.