There was a big management shake-up over at Ford this weekend. The company fired CEO Mark Fields and is replacing him with the head of its Smart Mobility division, James Hackett. What will this management shuffle mean for Ford?
Executives are hired and fired all the time. It could be because a company isn’t performing well or because it’s sold or any number of reasons. Things don’t always work out for people making the big bucks just like things don’t always work our for the rest of us. This time, things didn’t work out for Fields.
The difference is that this isn’t a small company and Fields is not just the head of the mailroom. Fields was the CEO of Ford Motor Company, which is a big player in the automotive space. It has positioned itself over the last few years as not solely a car company, but a mobility company, and despite this grand vision, stockholders are not happy.
That is a big part of the problem for Ford. It’s focused on mobility, mobility, mobility and desperately trying to convince everyone it’s not a car company. It’s hard to buy that when what it’s most known for is producing stuff like the Mustang and F-150. That sounds like a car company to the common man. Heck, it sounds like a car company to anyone.
Yet, Ford’s latest Detroit auto show presentation wasn’t really about cars. It did show a refreshed F-150 along with pretty PowerPoint slides with logos for the Ranger pickup and Bronco SUV. The bulk of their press conference, however, felt like a seminar. It was like that conference your boss made you go to because he thought it would be informational when all it was was a chance for you to get out of the office for the day. The topic? You guessed it – mobility.
There’s no denying that the automotive landscape is changing as autonomous technology becomes a key component of our cars. Safety features like forward collision warning and lane keep assist are the precursors to fully autonomous vehicles. Once our cars don’t need human drivers, the way we use our cars will dramatically change.
Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft won’t need drivers. Those who only use cars on occasion will be able to hail autonomous cars anywhere and anytime. People who are housebound will regain the freedom they lost or maybe never had because they couldn’t safely drive.
It’s a big shift in the automotive landscape.
That’s the future, and it’s one that is happening soon, but not tomorrow, despite Ford’s insistence on being that future mobility company today. Years down the road, sure, but right now it needs to build and sell cars that people want to drive.
It needs to find the balance between becoming the mobility company of the future while still being the car company of today. Fields’ vision wasn’t making anyone happy from stockholders to the board to the average consumer who just wanted to get behind the wheel of a nice car.
Ford isn’t ditching its mobility focus, at least it doesn’t look that way. New CEO Hackett was the head of its Smart Mobility subsidiary so they’re tapping someone immersed in the future of mobility. Hackett should have a clear vision of what the future holds for Ford. Hopefully he can find a better way to blend what Ford needs to become in the future with what it needs to be today.