James D. (Jim) Farley, Jr., is the Ford Motor Company’s next President and CEO, and much of the automotive media could not be more pleased. Farley, who left Toyota for Ford in 2007, has proven his mettle in a variety of positions, including as the one-time head of the Lincoln brand. He will succeed Jim Hackett who will step down on Oct. 1, but remain in an advisory capacity until spring 2021.
From Cars to Trucks and Utility Vehicles
Farley’s ascendancy comes as Ford transitions away from cars to an almost full utility vehicle and truck fleet, at least in the United States. Hackett was responsible for pulling the plug on several Ford and Lincoln cars, including the Focus RS, Fiesta ST, Fusion, and Taurus, as well as the Lincoln MKZ and Continental. That controversial decision upset not a few fans; Farley, of course, might reverse course or at least bring back a few niche models to fill out the product line.
Nevertheless, Ford is on the verge of releasing its Mustang Mach-E electric SUV and will soon roll out the next-generation F-150, its most popular model. Later this year, the Bronco Sport crossover arrives, followed by two- and four-door versions of the Bronco SUV in early 2021. The Bronco is expected to carve a niche in a segment dominated by the Jeep Wrangler.
Hackett, Stock Value and Profitability
Hackett came to Ford from a furniture company and has received criticism for not elevating Ford’s stock value and profitability. Regardless, Ford did make money in the second quarter, thanks largely to the profitability of its Argo AI unit. That’s opposite the trend of what most of the industry suffered in the second quarter as the global coronavirus pandemic took hold. Analysts expect Ford to make a profit of at least $500 million in the third quarter as production returns to pre-COVID-19 levels.
Farley is admired by many for his interest in vintage racing. Indeed, he owns Cobra and GT40 models that he races for that purpose. His family’s Ford roots can be traced to his grandfather who worked at the Ford River Rouge Plant beginning in 1914.
From Toyota to Lincoln to COO
Farley joined Toyota in 1990 and was responsible for rolling out the Scion brand. His other accomplishments included serving as group vice president and general manager of Lexus, where he was responsible for all sales, marketing and customer satisfaction activities. He also held a VP position with the Toyota brand.
In 2007, Ford hired Farley as group vice president, global marketing and Canada, Mexico and South America. Later, he oversaw operations for that same region. In 2010, Farley was appointed to lead global marketing sales and services. He had additional stints at Lincoln, including overseeing the brand’s launch in China and served as executive vice president and president, Ford Europe, Middle East and Africa. At present, Farley is the company’s Chief Operating Officer and represents Ford on the U.S. China Business Council Board of Directors.
Farley’s ascendancy comes as little surprise to industry analysts who have witnessed his grooming for the position early on. The upcoming CEO’s resume may be one of the best in the industry, thus his movement to the top tier of the Ford conglomerate is a natural next step.
His being a car guy is an attribute that should bode well for Ford. Like Akio Toyoda, whose design and racing background has influenced Toyota tremendously (a sporty Camry and a revived GR Supra are just two examples of his imprint), Farley brings skill and panache to his new role. We can speculate what that might mean, but rest assured his guidance should have far-reaching consequences throughout the company as it attempts to balance electrification and autonomy with the vehicles customers want most.
Photo copyright the Ford Motor Company.