A New Leader For Fords Makeover

COO Jim Farley will become Ford Motor Company’s CEO in October, succeeding Jim Hackett.

The change comes at a crucial moment for the storied automaker: COO Jim Farley will become Ford Motor Company’s CEO in October, succeeding Jim Hackett, whose $11 billion restructuring plan did little to boost sales or stock performance. Farley has had a three-decade automotive career and deep family ties to the industry—in contrast to Hackett, who ran an office-furniture firm for more than 20 years before joining Ford.

Farley, whose grandfather started working on the Ford assembly line in 1914, was hired by Toyota in 1990, where he served in a number of marketing roles until he was promoted to general manager of the company’s luxury Lexus brand. He joined Ford in 2007 as global head of marketing and sales, moving through the ranks until he was picked in 2019 to lead the new businesses, technology and strategy team and, shortly after, as COO.

Experience alone, however, likely won’t be enough to help Ford regain momentum.

In the top job, Farley will have to complete the multiyear turnaround his predecessor began, and launch key products such as the redesigned F-150 truck, a new lineup of Bronco SUVs and the SUV makeover of the Mustang—all while keeping Ford competitive in an industry being transformed by artificial intelligence, hyperconnectivity, sharing platforms and autonomous driving.

Nathan Furr, an author of best-selling books on leadership and professor of innovation and technology strategy at Insead, applauds Ford’s wide-ranging attempts to broaden its investment in new mobility paradigms and explore different business models. “At the same time,” he says, “successful innovation always depends on solving a real customer need; and I wonder if all of these initiatives are always truly focused on that need.”

Farley’s advantage, Furr argues, is his experience leading some of these innovation programs. “His challenge, however, is that he brings the industry-insider mindset, which may limit his ability to react to the architectural shifts occurring in the industry.” Nevertheless, the new CEO seems capable of balancing the need for the new and the demands of the old, and “that may be his best qualification,” Furr concludes.