Ford exec Raj Nair ousted for ‘inappropriate behavior’

Nora Naughton
The Detroit News

A top executive at Ford Motor Co.’s accused by the company of “inappropriate behavior” has been pushed out, amid rising scrutiny of workplace conduct in companies nationwide.

Raj Nair, executive vice president and president of North America, recently was accused of the unspecified behavior through an anonymous complaint, Ford said. The company followed protocol to investigate the claims and found “certain behavior by Nair was inconsistent with the company’s code of conduct.”

Ford would not say exactly what Nair was accused of to protect the privacy of those involved. The company said it wasn’t aware of criminal charges or lawsuits filed against Nair.

“We made this decision after a thorough review and careful consideration,” CEO Jim Hackett said in a statement. “Ford is deeply committed to providing and nurturing a safe and respectful culture and we expect our leaders to fully uphold these values.”

Late last year Hackett told harassers, “We don’t want you here” after the New York Times reported that women at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant and Chicago Stamping plant complained of years of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Nair, 53, said in a company statement that he regretted his actions.

“I sincerely regret that there have been instances where I have not exhibited leadership behaviors consistent with the principles that the Company and I have always espoused,” he said.

Nair succeeded Joe Hinrichs — now executive vice president of global operations — in the Ford North America job in June 2017 amid an executive shakeup that followed Hackett’s ascension to CEO. Just before Hackett was named CEO, Nair received a one-time retention stock bonus to be paid in 2020, which was worth roughly $5 million based on Ford’s stock price at the time.

Prior to that he was head of global product development and chief technical officer beginning in 2015. In that role, he oversaw all aspects of design, engineering and research.

He joined the company as an engineer in 1987, the year he graduated from Kettering University with a bachelor’s degree in automotive mechanical engineering. Nair is a member of Kettering’s Board of Trustees. A Kettering representative declined to comment on Nair’s dismissal.

Nair held several engineering jobs at Ford, including executive director of North American product development and vice president of engineering for product development. He worked on the F-Series, Explorer and Expedition, according to his biography on Ford’s website. He was instrumental in Ford’s return to Le Mans and the resurrection of the Ford GT.

Michelle Krebs, an automotive analyst with AutoTrader, said in an emailed statement: “This comes at a particularly bad time for Ford, which only last spring ousted Mark Fields as CEO. Investors and analysts have been unhappy with the seeming lack of a clear direction for Ford, especially in terms of future mobility services.

“The stock price has fallen. The pressure is on Jim Hackett, anointed CEO last spring, to lay out a clear road ahead for Ford.”