Needless to say, it came as a surprise to many when Ford CEO Jim Hackett announced his retirement earlier this week. After all, Hackett accepted the position just over three years ago, and had another year to go before he planned to move on to his post-executive life. While some will undoubtedly speculate as to why Hackett would retire one year early, he was happy to explain his big decision in a recent conversation with the Detroit Free Press.
Hackett spoke at length about Ford’s uncomfortable transformation over the last few years, a process that brought about some interesting revelations. “What I got to witness in that is the best ally I had beyond Bill (Ford Jr., executive chairman) was Jim Farley,” Hackett said. “He never ever complained about the change, he leaned into all of it. In fact, during the COVID crisis, he emerges as a leader. That explains, ‘why now.'”
“I didn’t expect the pandemic,” Hackett continued. “What crisis does is it exposes real core talent. There’s no choreographed game plan. I got to witness Jim Farley. I thought, one more year just delays what Bill and I and the board thought – that Jim could take control of next year’s plan, really secure the execution of that. It’s just wiser to do it now. That was the thinking behind ‘let’s do it,’ so that Jim can plan 2021.”
Farley, a 13 year Ford veteran, also expressed confidence in Ford’s future. “First of all, I’m very optimistic. We have momentum as a company,” Farley said. “The transition will be well-planned and smooth. We really have a great view of where we can grow the company profitably and the intersection between technology and traditional products.”
“Yes, there’s always things to be concerned about,” he continued. “The global economy, COVID, a long list of things. But I guess I would turn around a little bit and say what I think about is the opportunity that we can go after. I’d phrase it differently than a concern. We don’t want to miss the opportunity that we see in front of us, that Jim (Hackett) has helped to build a foundation.”