Ford replaces CEO in push to transform business

Posted May 22, 2017

Replacing Fields will be former Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett who has been running Ford's smart mobility subsidiary.

Ford Motor Company is replacing its chief executive in a "reshuffle" of top personnel, a source has told Sky News.

Ford shares are down 37 percent since Fields took over three years ago, at the peak of the US auto industry's recovery.

Bill Ford and Ford's Board of Directors thanked Fields for his significant contributions to the company.

Ford has churned out strong profits under Fields, reporting a record $10.4 billion in pretax earnings in 2016.

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As recently as last week, Fields, 56, had been trying to strengthen Ford's bottom line by cutting 1,400 salaried jobs.

Hackett, 62, helped to revive office furniture maker Steelcase as its chief executive from 1994 to 2014 before joining Ford past year. Mr. Fields has been planning to launch driverless cars early next decade, but it has been far behind Tesla and GM on electric-car development and executives have struggled to explain how Ford will make money on services other than developing, producing and selling automobiles. "I have developed a deep appreciation for Ford's people, values and heritage during the past four years as part of the company and look forward to working together with everyone tied to Ford during this transformative period".

Hackett is also head of the company's smart mobility unit, which is focused on its ride-hailing and car-sharing efforts. Analysts and investors have routinely questioned the company's ability to weather the next industry downturn-criticism has increased as US auto sales plateau and Ford's market share slides. Investors also worry that Ford is falling behind its rivals. Ford's USA sales are down this year in part because it doesn't have offerings in popular segments like subcompact SUVs and midsize pickups. The company has also experienced a deep decline in the sale of small and mid-sized cars, leading some Wall Street analysts to suggest that it drop unprofitable models from its portfolio. James D. Farley Jr, boss of the company's European division has been appointed to oversee the worldwide sales and marketing. Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford's Americas division, will oversee global product development, manufacturing and quality.

Among his bets on technology is a plan to invest $1 billion over the next five years in tech startup Argo AI.