Executive shakeup continues at Ford

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
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Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Hackett’s management shakeup is continuing, this time claiming four senior executives who will retire or leave the Dearborn automaker by the end of the year.

The series of moves, announced Tuesday, officially are intended to fortify Ford’s European operations and streamline decision making. But they also send the unambiguous message that the new guy atop the Glass House is pushing to build the kind of team he thinks he needs for Ford to prosper in an industry where the only constant is expected to be change.

The executive shuffle comes just two days before Ford is scheduled to detail its third-quarter results, punctuating the strategic outline Hackett and his team shared with investors earlier this month in New York — much of which analysts later described as lackluster and deliberately vague.

He plans to eliminate $14 billion over the next five years from materials costs and engineering alone, to cut the number of customizable options on vehicles, to trim development times and to leverage partnerships to drive foreign business and autonomous vehicles.

The goal is to “improve efficiencies” in the global operations, Hackett said in a statement. The series of departures, retirements and reassignments help Hackett build a new culture at Ford built on his devotion to simple and effective systems. It also creates a new ranking position in Ford of Europe, where the company has important joint ventures.

It will be the second round of major management changes since Hackett was appointed to lead the Dearborn-based automaker in May. Then, he restructured the executive ranks initially into what he and other company officials called a more rational flowchart. The second round of moves further shift the chain of command and resources as Hackett aims to prune billions in costs over the next five years.

Felicia Fields, the 52-year-old human resources director, will retire. She will be replaced on an interim basis by Kiersten Robinson, 47, executive director of human resources for global markets. Stephen Odell, 62, executive vice president of Ford global marketing, sales and service and a former CEO of Ford of Europe credited with laying the foundation of its turnaround, will retire after 37 years with the company. And Bennie Fowler, 61, group vice president of quality and new model launch, will retire.

John Casesa, a longtime Wall Street analyst and investment banker, will leave the company. Considered one of the sharpest minds on the industry during his days on The Street, he was appointed in 2015 by former CEO Mark Fields to oversee global strategy and business development.

Effective Nov. 1, Kumar Galhotra, 51, becomes group vice president of Lincoln and chief marketing officer. Galhotra will continue his work at Lincoln, and will also be responsible for putting Ford’s work in digital services, electrification, mobility and autonomy on display as a marketing officer.

“As we develop our strategy to become the most trusted mobility company, designing smart vehicles for a smart world, we will continue to reshape the organization to deliver the most value for our customers and all of our stakeholders,” Hackett said in a statement. “The changes we are announcing today will further align resources and improve efficiencies throughout our global markets and operations. At the same time, I want to recognize the truly significant contributions of the senior leaders departing from Ford and thank them for their many years of service.”

Linda Cash, 55, has been named vice president of quality and new model launch, replacing Fowler. Previously vice president of manufacturing for Ford of Europe, she’s responsible for “driving quality processes throughout the design and production of Ford vehicles ....” Dale Wishnousky, 54, will replace Cash.

The company is also naming Birgit Behrendt vice president of joint ventures, alliances and commercial affairs, a new position responsible for the development of new arrangements to “support the company’s business growth.” She will become the highest ranking German woman ever to work as an officer of Ford of Europe.

Behrendt “will be responsible for all joint ventures and alliances in Europe, including the development of new arrangements to support the company’s business growth” in the new position.

Ford also announced that Joy Falotico, chairman and CEO of Ford Credit, will now report directly to Hackett. Falotico had previously reported to CFO Bob Shanks, who now will oversee the global strategy and business development team.

Hackett plans to eliminate vehicles, trim billions in operating costs and divert money from the development of passenger cars and internal combustion engines, investing that in trucks, SUVs and electric vehicles. He has said several times since taking over as CEO that the company needs to be more financially fit.


Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau

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