The Farley Era Begins At Ford: What Lies Ahead For Ford’s New CEO
It’s now October and while that means pumpkin spice everything is in full effect as well as falling leaves, it also officially begins the Jim Farley era at Ford Motor Company. As I reported earlier this year, Farley replaces Jim Hackett as Ford’s 11th CEO in the company’s 117 year history.
Farley is much more of a “car guy” than Hackett was, so my initial reaction is that Farley will have a positive influence over the future of the Blue Oval. While Farley has a lot of tasks ahead of him, many that are crucial to Ford’s long-term success, having a true car guy over a company like Ford is a good thing.
“During the past three years, under Jim Hackett’s leadership, we have made meaningful progress and opened the door to becoming a vibrant, profitably growing company,” Farley said. “Now it’s time to charge through that door.”
“We are going to compete like a challenger – allocate capital to higher growth and return opportunities to create value – and earn customers for life through great products and a rewarding ownership experience.”
Jim Farley’s Goals For Ford
Farley outlined key goals and organizational changes during a virtual town hall meeting with the company’s global team. Farley said Ford plans to move with urgency to turn around its automotive operations – improving quality, reducing costs and accelerating the restructuring of underperforming businesses.
At the same time, Ford will grow by:
• Allocating more capital, resources and talent to its strongest businesses and vehicle franchises
• Expanding its leading commercial vehicle business with a suite of software services that drive loyalty and recurring revenue streams
• Offering compelling, uniquely Ford fully electric vehicles at scale around the world, including Transit, F-Series, Mustang, SUVs and Lincoln
• Adding more affordable vehicles to its global lineup, including in North America
• Standing up new customer-facing businesses enabled by Argo AI’s world-class self-driving system
Ford is making changes to its operating model to help deliver on these priorities, including:
• Concentrating decision-making and accountability around product and customer groups in three regional business units – The Americas and International Markets; Europe; and China
• Accelerating innovation to be a leader in new businesses such as autonomous vehicles and mobility
• Harnessing expertise in industrial platforms to develop world-class connected vehicles
• Unleashing technology and software in ways that set Ford apart from competitors
• Embracing and increasing the diversity of backgrounds, experiences and talent across the company
Farley said the company is targeting consistent operating performance that includes adjusted earnings before interest and taxes of 8% of revenue with strong automotive adjusted free cash flow, so the company can fully invest in customers and growth.
Other Key Leadership Changes At Ford
Effective immediately, Ford has announced other key leadership changes.
John Lawler, 54, will become CFO today, overseeing the Finance and Ford Motor Credit organizations. Lawler will succeed Tim Stone, who has accepted a position as chief operating officer and chief financial officer at ASAPP Inc., a research-driven, artificial-intelligence software company. Stone will remain with Ford through Oct. 15 to ensure a smooth transition.
Lawler has most recently been serving as CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles and vice president, Mobility Partnerships, and spent much of his 30 years at Ford in finance leadership and general management. He served as president of Ford China for nearly four years when the company achieved record in-country performance. He also served as corporate controller and CFO, Global Markets and head of worldwide strategy.
“John knows our company inside-out, has a clear view and great ambition for what Ford can be, and articulates what’s needed to get there,” Farley said. “As CFO, he will help assure we have the means to fund those ambitions.”
Lawler’s successor in his current position, who will oversee the New Businesses group going forward, will be named later.
“Tim has been a powerful voice inside the company pushing us all to persistently focus on our customers and what they want and need,” Farley said. “He also played a critical leadership role in guiding the company through the COVID-19 crisis. We thank Tim for his contributions and wish him the best.”
Jeff Lemmer, Ford’s chief information officer, will retire Jan. 1 after 33 years with the company. A successor for Lemmer as CIO, who will lead the Technology and Software platform, will be announced in the near future.
“Jeff has been an outstanding leader at Ford and that was never truer than this year, when he and the IT team kept our company fully connected and operational during the pandemic,” Farley said. “Ford shifted more than 100,000 people around the world to remote work virtually overnight because of COVID-19, and our information systems haven’t missed a beat.”
Ford will strengthen its commitment to two key areas by having separate senior leaders run the Lincoln Motor Company and Global Marketing.
Joy Falotico, 53, who has been president of Lincoln and Ford’s chief marketing officer for nearly three years, will be dedicated solely to further growing Ford’s luxury brand once a new chief marketing officer is named shortly. She will report to Kumar Galhotra, president, The Americas and International Markets.
“This change will allow Joy to focus on accelerating Lincoln’s global growth through great vehicles and services and a truly differentiated customer experience,” Galhotra said. “Lincoln’s completely refreshed lineup is resonating with customers in the U.S. as well as in China, where we are now producing the Lincoln Aviator and Corsair locally, for Chinese customers – and that’s just the beginning.”
Separately, in Europe, Dale Wishnousky, 57, vice president, Manufacturing, Ford of Europe, will retire at the end of the year. His career with the company started in 1987 and spanned key manufacturing and service leadership roles in multiple countries. Kieran Cahill, 53, previously director, Manufacturing and Strategic Projects, Ford of Europe, succeeds Wishnousky, effective immediately.
So What Does Farley’s Leadership Mean For the Ford Mustang?
Farley had already help guide Ford through the reinvention of the Mustang name/brand by launching the all-electric crossover that they named the Mustang Mach-E. Much hullaballoo was generated over that decision, which Farley was integral in that decision making, but whether I/we agree with it, it’s happening.
However, I’m hearing that sales and interest in the Mach-E is causing concerning in Dearborn. In fact, people who pre-ordered a Mach-E were notified of a discount to incentivize them more to convert that pre-order into a sale.
Is this a smart move by Ford, or the sign of panic that the Mach-E could be a major bust for Ford, during a time when they and Farley are pushing electric vehicles.
At least we know that the next generation of the Mustang (the real Mustang) will continue since a new Mach 1 is coming and the next Mustang platform is being developed too. My guess is there will be an all-electric Mustang coupe and convertible in the future.
How Will Jim Farley Shape The Ford F-150?
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the Mach-E is Ford’s best-selling nameplate. Farley oversaw the launch of the 14th-generation F-150 and his era begins as production and future delivery of the best-selling truck in North America has started.
We now know the specs of the 2021 Ford F-150 and it has best-ever towing and even the hybrid version is impressive with its torque and capability. This is the area Farley can really make his biggest impact. Being one of the first auto manufacturers out there with a hybrid truck and the soon-to-come all-electric F-150 will be vital for Ford and for Farley’s legacy.
The Ford Bronco Returns
Lastly, the iconic Bronco will make its return in 2021. I’ve heard that production and orders are so intense for the Bronco that Ford may not be able to fulfill all the orders on time for a 2021 delivery. Some Broncos may not be delivered until 2022 as a result of the surge in orders. That’s a good problem to have for Ford.
Indeed, after all the hype and anticipation, Ford perfectly executed the launch of the 2021 Ford Bronco, including listening to enthusiasts who wanted more manual transmission options. The demand is high and the feedback is mostly positive. If nothing else, bringing back the iconic Bronco, holding true to its two and four-door heritage, plus launching a third variant as the Bronco Sport will help Ford take on rival Jeep.
I don’t know Jim Farley. I’ve never met him. People I like and trust at Ford have met him and praise him. Plus the fact that he’s a car guy goes a long way with me, since Ford is one of the most historic car manufacturers in the world. It should be led by a car guy.
What say you? Leave me your comment with what you think about Farley and what you think his biggest challenges ahead might be.
Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter, at his special Ford F-150 coverage on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can read the most of Jimmy's stories by searching Torque News Ford for daily Ford vehicle report.