While much has been written over the past several days about the background of Ford’s new CEO, Jim Hackett, there’s been another – possibly more-pivotal – promotion at the company that’s gone mostly undiscussed: the promotion of Ford Europe, Middle East & Africa President Jim Farley to President of Global Markets.
A cousin of late actor/comedian Chris Farley (yes, really), Jim Farley has worked in automotive since 1990, when he joined Toyota’s strategic planning department, serving in several product and marketing roles on his way to becoming general manager of Toyota’s Lexus luxury brand. He left that position and joined Ford Motor Company in 2007, being put to work in a variety of different roles all around the globe. This level of experience stands in contrast to CEO Jim Hackett, whose first foray into the automotive sector came in 2013, when he was made a member of Ford’s board of directors.
In fact, as CNBC reports, Barclays analyst Brian Johnson speculated in a note Monday that President of Global Markets Jim Farley and President of Global Operations Joe Hinrichs, both of whom were promoted Monday, have good chances of replacing 62-year-old Jim Hackett sometime in the next few years.
“We’d suspect that new CEO Jim Hackett will likely be a medium-term CEO, with a successor to be groomed over the coming years,” Johnson’s note read in part. With Jim Farley and Joe Hinrichs “now respectively managing the business units and some of the key business functions, it appears both are vying to take over as CEO after Hackett’s work is complete. Both have big challenges and perhaps the board’s thinking is this will motivate them to cut deeper, act faster, etc.”
But the reason we suspect that Farley, more than Hinrichs, could end up being a more pivotal character at Ford is his deep hatred for General Motors. As Jalopnik reminds us, the executive was quoted in the book Once Upon A Car: The Fall and Resurrection of America’s Big Three Automakers as saying he’s “going to beat Chevrolet on the head with bat.”
“F— GM,” he said. “I hate them and their company and what they stand for. And I hate the way they’re succeeding.”
Even if a bit rude and crass, we appreciate the fiery passion and the thirst for competition revealed by Farley’s words. Like any enterprise, automakers thrive on having fierce rivalries. Serious competition makes every player stronger; if Ferrari and Ford hadn’t been embroiled in a feud in the 1960s, the latter would never have entered – let alone won – the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
When automakers compete, fans and customers win.