Jim Hackett snapped the ball for Schembechler, opened up office space for Steelcase, and wants to build your next car.
Ford has announced that relative newcomer Jim Hackett will replace Mark Fields as company president and CEO. In addition to having a rather shy smile in his corporate bio picture, here are five things you may not already know about the incoming big shot.
Ford World HQ might be getting all new office furniture
Hackett spent 30 years working for office furniture giant, Steelcase, reportedly helping that company rise to the standard of “industry innovator.” Ford’s bio claims that Hackett saw the dramatic shift from walled-off office spaces to flexible, open floor plans. Does this mean we’ll get a revamped Taurus with and interior that doesn’t feel two sizes too big? Or simply that folks at Ford headquarters will have a lot more lower back support? Only time will tell, but I can personally report that my Steelcase desk chair is the bee’s knees.
He's a gamer
The multifaceted Hackett served as the Interim director of athletics at University of Michigan (Go Blue!) from 2014 to 2016. But he wasn’t simply and armchair quarterback; Hackett also graduated from U of M, and played center for Bo Schembechler’s Wolverines. A graduating senior in 1977, I can’t confirm if Hackett actually took snaps for that year’s 10-1, Big Ten champion team, but I will use this as an excuse to remind everyone that Michigan beat Ohio State in Ann Arbor that year.
He wants your driverless car to be your favorite place to spend time
Hackett was among the leadership team to launch Ford’s Smart Mobility project – that’s the vaunted new company division focused on things like connected car tech, and autonomous vehicles. The focus on mobility is actually pretty interesting when you overlay in on Hackett’s background in industrial design (during his time at Steelcase, the exec also partnered with IDEO for some pretty cutting edge work). It speaks to a strong vision for the kinds of motive spaces that, until very recently, have only been the featured in far-off concept vehicles.
At the very least Hackett seems much more attuned to a non-tradition transportation future than you might get from a candidate that’s more of an automotive OEM lifer.
He's not moving alone
Hackett’s rise to the top of the executive suite is triggering loads of other moves inside the company. Notably, Jim Farley, who many observers expected to be heir apparent to Mark Fields, has been promoted to the road of executive vice president for global markets. Farley is reasonably young, at 54, and could still be in the grooming process for the big chair.
From our standpoint in the media, it’s fascinating to see that longtime PR Svengali Ray Day is being replaced by Mark Truby – which might mean a different flavor of Ford content makes its way onto your Internet. Stay tuned.
Bill Ford reminds you not to forget about Bill Ford
Read the press release (in the expandable form, below); there are scads of examples of references to Hackett reporting to Executive Chairman (and important-last-name-haver) Bill Ford. Yes, it’s clear that even in his role as CEO, Hackett will have a boss. But the sheer number of times this point is driven home in a single press release, feels a little like there may be a self confidence problem in the Ford executive branch. Suffice it to say that Hackett will be under some real scrutiny for the immediate future, and not just from members of the media, or the car-buying public.