Ford names Hackett as CEO to tackle car rivals, Silicon Valley

Tue May 23, 2017 9:28am EDT
 
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By David Shepardson and Joseph White

WASHINGTON/DEARBORN, Mich. (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) abruptly named James Hackett as chief executive on Monday, responding to investors' growing unease about the U.S. automaker's slumping stock price and its ability to counter threats from longtime rivals and Silicon Valley.

Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr., whose family effectively controls the U.S. No. 2 automaker, said he wanted Hackett to speed up decision-making and cut costs, but did not offer specifics on how the new CEO should change operations.

"The clock speed at which our competitors are working …requires us to make decisions at a faster pace," said Ford Jr., who plans to take a more active role at the company, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Ford, which announced plans to cut 1,400 white-collar positions last week, is expected to look at further significant cost cuts in the next three to six months, according to company officials, speaking on condition of anonymity as the plans have not been finalized.

Hackett, 62, known as a turnaround expert who for the past year has led the Ford unit developing self-driving cars and related projects, replaces Mark Fields, 56, who spent less than three years as CEO.

Fields' abrupt dismissal caught nearly all at Ford by surprise, but concerns about the company's direction have been brewing for some time.

Ford, once the most financially secure of the 'Big Three' Detroit automakers, and the only one not to take U.S. government money in the U.S. auto industry bailout a decade ago, reported record profit in 2015, but now finds itself under pressure on all sides as overall U.S. auto sales fall.

Rival General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) is aggressively targeting Ford's share of the lucrative North American truck and sport utility business, the source of 90 percent of Ford's profit.   Continued...

 
Ford Motor Executive Chairman Bill Ford (R) and James Hackett answer questions from the media after announcing Hackett was named Ford Motor Company president and CEO, succeeding Mark Fields, in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S., May 22, 2017.   REUTERS/Rebecca Cook