New Ford management teams to focus on customer needs

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. will now have a series of product management teams focused on planning, developing, marketing and selling vehicles that better meet consumers' needs, the company said Monday.

The new Enterprise Product Line Management segment of the company will house 10 teams responsible for specific categories of Ford vehicles, like "urban utilities," rather than entire segments, like all of Ford SUVs. It's part of an effort to boost profitability and build more franchise-worthy vehicles.

The new teams are the latest structural shift under CEO Jim Hackett. A former director of Ford, he took over as CEO in May 2017 and is under increasing pressure to demonstrate for shareholders his plan to improve the automaker's operational "fitness" around the world.

Jim Farley, Ford president of global markets, and other Blue Oval executives have since the 2018 Detroit auto show said that Ford's strengths lie in its F-150 and Mustang brands. Those vehicles elicit passion from buyers, and claim the most consumer loyalty. Farley said at an early August event celebrating the 10-millionth Mustang that the pony car represents Ford at its best.

"Our most successful products are the ones that go just beyond a functional requirement," Farley said then. "The Mustang swagger is something we're going to bring to all our crossovers and utilities."

The shift comes less than two weeks after Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's executive vice president of product development and purchasing, said the company would increase the number of vehicles in its lineup to 23 by 2023, despite plans to cut sedans from the North American product portfolio completely.

Both Farley and Thai-Tang have said that as Ford ditches sedans, the company hopes to garner the same sort of brand loyalty seen in Mustang customers in other product lines.

Dedicating teams directly responsible for specific product categories is a move to generate new growth in the company.

"Our most successful franchises — from F-150 to Mustang to Transit — are anchored in an obsession for the customer, deep product expertise and an unyielding commitment to strong returns,” Farley said in a statement. “By taking this approach, we can raise the bar across our product lines. Each team will have clear accountability for winning in the marketplace and delivering profitable growth."

Ford has appointed Jim Baumbick as vice president, Enterprise Product Line Management, to lead the teams to better meet emerging customer needs, drive top-line growth and maximize returns.


The new product line management segment reports to Farley. It's led by Ford veteran Jim Baumbick, who also becomes a company officer. Baumbick, 47, was previously executive director of global product planning and strategy, where he led development of the company's new flexible vehicle architectures.

Baumbick will oversee 10 teams. Their areas of focus are: F-Series, urban utilities, rugged utilities, family utilities, performance vehicles, commercial vehicles, electric vehicles, compact trucks, luxury vehicles, and emerging market vehicles.

The teams will manage those product lines as end-to-end businesses, working with designers, product development teams, marketing teams and global business units to build up Ford's portfolio, and bring vehicles to market faster and more efficiently, according to a company statement.

The new management teams will focus on meeting emerging demand, and drive revenue, sales and profits. 

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau