Jim Farley, 58, who was appointed Ford’s chief operating officer in February, will replace Jim Hackett on October 1 as president and CEO of Ford Motor Company.
In his promotion to the top of the car-maker, Mr Farley was described by Ford executive chairman Bill Ford as “a car guy”. He owns and races vintage cars and has spent his life devoted to cars.
Born in Argentina, Mr Farley spent his teenage years in the US where he rebuilt car engines and went to work for Toyota after college.
He became a sales and marketing executive at Toyota before being promoted to group vice-president of Lexus.
Mr Farley brought to Toyota a marketing plan for the sub-brand Scion, which he launched in the US to attract younger drivers.
Scion buyers were allowed to customise their vehicle through Toyota-Scion branded accessories and parts which was regarded as a new approach for a traditional car-maker.
He joined Ford in 2007 as global head of marketing and sales and was a key member of former CEO Alan Mulally’s team to return Ford to profitability.
Commentators on Mr Farley’s appointment said this week that Mr Mulally and Mr Farley were similar in their views on products.
In 2008 Mr Farley launched the “Drive One” strategy campaign before heading up Ford’s Lincoln division, then to South America to lead that market, and then into Europe in a move that is seen as a traditional breeding ground for Ford CEOs.
In 2016, the European operations under Mr Farley posted record profitability, record margins and increased sales by improving the product, notably the Fiesta and Focus.
He added upmarket and luxury features to vehicles like the Mustang to better compete against BMW and Audi and looked at Peugeot and Renault’s commercial vehicle businesses and started to replicate their success with Ford’s new van range.
Mr Farley’s appointment comes two weeks after Ford reported an adjusted $US1.9 billion ($A2.64 billion) loss before interest and taxes in the second quarter as the pandemic wreaked havoc with sales and took a severe bite out of earnings.
At its general shareholder meeting held to announce the financial results, Ford told investors that it expected to lose money for the rest of the year and that it was carrying debt of about $US30 billion ($A41.6 billion), with $US15.4 billion ($A21.4 billion) attributed to borrowings to help it through the pandemic.
Financial analysts said Ford has slipped to a junk credit rating in comparison with General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automotive that have maintained their investment grade ratings.
Ford is three years into a $US11 billion ($A15.26 billion) restructuring and is set to use Mr Farley’s plans for capitalising on data and new technology to move towards its Auto 2.0 future of autonomous, connected and electrified vehicles.
On the opportunities in connectivity, commercial vehicles and data analytics, Mr Farley in April this year told reporters: “The real engine in our business is moving quickly from petrol and fossil fuels to data.
“Our commercial business is a powerhouse. And we have the opportunity to go from selling these powerhouse products to building a whole digital business of services and data that these customers are ready for.”
About Mr Farley, Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid told The Detroit News this week that: “He’s brought on a team of people that have a lot of experience and have done a lot of good things over the past several years.
“I think they are on the right path. The key now is to actually execute on that.”
Mr Hackett (65) has held the post for three years and came into Ford from a background of 30 years with office furniture company Steelcase, the final 20 years as CEO.
He retired from Steelcase in 2014 though stayed on for a year as vice chairman before joining Ford’s board as a director in 2013 and then succeeded outgoing president and CEO Mark Fields on May 22, 2017.
On retirement from Ford’s top job, Mr Hackett will become a special advisor to the company.
By Neil Dowling