Ford is no longer a car company

Jim Hackett FordFordNew Ford CEO Jim Hackett.

On Monday, Ford replaced CEO Mark Fields with Jim Hackett, a former Steelcase CEO and Ford board member who had been running the company’s Smart Mobility initiative.

The move came as Ford stock had declined 40% since Fields took over as CEO in 2014, despite a record profit in 2015 and a near-record profit in 2016.

Since Fields became CEO, he had pushed to present Ford as both an auto and mobility company. It was something of a mantra for the executive, who had spent 28 years at the carmaker.

Hackett and Ford Chairman Bill Ford intend to change that.

“Jim and I feel strongly change and innovation has to happen across the whole business,” Ford said in an interview with Business Insider, adding that new technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence will transform the core of the company.

According to Ford, talking about Ford in terms of “core” and “emerging” businesses is an idea that’s passed.

“We’ve never been in times like this, with more opportunities and land mines,” Ford added. “We need a transformational leader.”

The goal seems quite straightforward. A 100-plus-year-old car company is soon going to stop being that, even as it continues to sell millions of vehicles worldwide. The era of Ford as an automaker is over.

Mark FieldsFordFormer Ford CEO Mark Fields.

A tall order. But at Steelcase, Hackett is often credited with taking a company that made furniture and reimagining it as a firm that transformed the workplace. He’s a highly abstract thinker who nonetheless can bring his ideas down to Earth and figure out ways to execute them in a business context.

“Jim has a unique capability to synthesise and bring everybody else along,” Ford said.

For his part, Hackett argued that Ford doesn’t need to follow the Teslas, Googles, Apples, and Googles of the word. Rather, it can go head-to-head with so-called disruptors and win. He didn’t say, however, that he would be immediately articulating a roadmap.

“It’s not a function of a watch,” he said. “It’s a function of it being right. The real opportunities in our business are in the future. We plan to be a competitor.”

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