Detroit. As I predicted a long time ago, Jim Farley will replace Jim Hackett as Ford’s CEO, effective October 1. This move was a fait accompli the moment Joe Hinrichs left the company in February. Thus, another transition begins for Ford, a company that has been on a roller-coaster ride since the day Alan Mulally left.
Hackett was the little-known furniture company executive and FoB (Friend of Bill Ford) who was handed the reins of the company in the wake of Mark Fields’ departure. Fields had succeeded Mulally, but it all went wrong for him in due time, so Bill tapped Hackett to run his family’s company. Now, if Bill had his druthers, Mulally would be just now getting ready to retire; he wanted the ex-Boeing executive to remain CEO basically for life. And although this was a view that was shared by many, alas it wasn’t to be. So, Bill alighted on the notion that Hackett could be "The Guy." And for some fleeting moments, Jim showed flashes that he could be "The Guy" but only intermittently. Hackett’s esoteric pronouncements (I dubbed him “Professor Moon Beam”) and his vision of the future – defined by connected cities et al. – and Ford’s role in it were all deemed well and good, but meanwhile the machine that defines Ford wasn’t being served. Hackett, by all accounts a decent, smart and well-meaning guy, just didn’t have the depth and breadth of experience to make a real difference at Ford. And his role at Ford predictably amounted to yet another transition, one that lasted three years.
So, now what? The one thing Ford desperately needs more than anything else right now is a chief executive who understands this business inside and out and can guide Ford through perilous waters. And Bill Ford has decided that Jim Farley is "The Guy." Needless to say, longtime readers of this website know that I vehemently disagree with Ford’s decision.
Farley, the former Toyota wunderkind who was responsible for the launch of the Scion brand, has developed quite the notorious reputation at Ford as one who is unfettered by rational thought and unburdened by accountability, and who has a penchant for going completely off the rails. Known for his prodigiously short attention span and burdened by an excruciatingly painful interpersonal awkwardness, Farley’s belligerent, condescending style of dealing with underlings, along with his classic “parachute in, helicopter out” M.O. that has defined bad actor executives for decades in this business became his calling card.
It gets worse. Farley has long considered himself to be “the smartest guy in the room” at Ford, much to everyone’s endless chagrin, because the reality is that he isn’t. It’s a carefully crafted facade that is hollow to its core. This was confirmed by the fact that Farley became known as "The Two Jims" because interactions with him became a meandering crapshoot, hinging upon whether people encountered the "good" Jim or the "bad" Jim on that particular day. Needless to say, when the "bad" Jim was unleashed, Farley left a trail of bad feelings and highly questionable decisions in his wake.
Now that Bill Ford has decided that Jim Farley is “The Guy,” it’s no secret that seasoned executives are cowering under their desks because an emboldened Farley, unfettered and untethered, has all the makings of an unmitigated disaster. Am I picking on Farley? Hardly. I have only scratched the surface in describing this ego maniacal character, and now that he has been given the CEO reins, he could wreak havoc on the company’s future for years.