James Hackett succeeds Mark Fields of Ford Motor

Keneilwe Moloko

Mark Fields, Chief executive of Ford Motor is leaving the company and following his exit, James P. Hackett, head of Ford Smart Mobility LLC subsidiary will take over from him. Other executives will assume larger roles, including James Farley, president of Ford’s Europe, Middle East and Africa business, and Joseph Hinrichs, head of Ford North America.

Consequently, leaving the company is Ford’s group vice president of communications, Ray Day, who will be replaced by Mark Truby, vice president of communications for Ford’s Asia-Pacific operations.

 The shakeup is a result of Executive Chairman Bill Ford and the rest of the board losing confidence in Fields’ leadership, according to people familiar with the board’s thinking. Fields replaced Alan Mulally in mid-2014, but lacked his predecessor’s ability to rally employees around a common mission or to make critical decisions about the company’s strategy.

A Ford spokesman would not confirm that any management changes were forthcoming. “We are staying focused on our plan for creating value and profitable growth. We do not comment on speculation or rumors,” the spokesman said.

Ford, which expects about USD9 billion in pre-tax profit this year, has lost market share and been unable to convince investors to buy its stock. Its share price is down 40 percent under Fields.

Hackett, 62, is the former chief executive of Steelcase, the office furniture company, and was a Ford director for three years before leaving the board to become chairman of the newly formed mobility services subsidiary in March 2016.

During his 30-year career at Steelcase, he is credited with expanding its business model, helping transform the company from a traditional office furniture manufacturer to a designer of cutting-edge workspaces, shifting away from cubicles, for example, to an open space environment, giving employees the flexibility to work where they want.

It’s not the first time Hackett has been tapped to lead an organization through a crisis. Before joining Ford, he served as interim athletic director at the University of Michigan, where he was hailed for wooing former San Francisco 49ers football coach Jim Harbaugh to Ann Arbor to coach the Wolverines after several disappointing seasons.

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