Ford Fires CEO, Innovation to Come?

WHAT IT IS

  • May 22, 2017: Ford CEO Mark Fields was fired after taking over the role in July 2014.
  • Fields worked at the company in several top positions, serving as President, Chief Operating Officer and President of the company’s American division.
  • The company posted record profits under Fields in 2015, but market shares have since fallen.
  • Jim Hackett (notable for CEO of Steelcase) is taking over after a stint as chairman of Ford’s Smart Mobility division that’s furthering research in self-driving cars. Hackett has been vocal about the Ford’s plans to move in this direction.

WHY IT MATTERS

The traditional auto industry is slowing. Ford has a lot of competition like Tesla, General Motors, Google and Apple. Many have turned their focus to self-driving vehicles, which former CEO Fields was not a fan of. This stance was at odds with Bill Ford, who controls much of the company’s voting shares through his family. The automobile industry is changing rapidly as everyone strives to put out a self-driving vehicle, but some think Ford can’t keep up.

  • TIME FOR CHANGE – “Fire Fields”

    • New perspective:   The company needed the fresh insights from someone focused on innovation and technology.
    • Innovation needed:   Fields was able to transform the office furniture maker Steelcase and can provide the same innovation at Ford.
    • Self-driving focus:   Hackett promised to usher in a self-driving car by 2021 and Fields didn’t want to be the first to offer the product.
  • INDUSTRY IS SLOWING – “Does it matter?”

    • Hard to top:   Former Ford CEO Alan Mulally was a big figure at the company and no one can follow in his footsteps.
    • Ridesharing:   The need for cars may continue to decline as more people move towards taking Uber or Lyft.
    • Bad blood:   Fields was at odds with Bill Ford as the former CEO got caught in a dispute last year with President Trump over opening new facilities in Mexico. Bill Ford is reportedly friends with the President.

WHERE WE ARE NOW

  • Fields could get up to $57.5 million as a parting payout.
  • Hackett says he will change the company culture, like he previously did at Steelcase.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • Can Ford keep up with Silicon Valley tech giants seeking to enter the auto industry?
  • Can a 114-year old company really change?
  • Was the ousting really a matter of Fields’ performance?