The C-Suite shakeup at Ford is the latest blaring signal that the landscape for OEMs – and collision repairers, by extension – is changing dramatically, for better or worse.
On May 22, Ford named Jim Hackett – a former CEO of furniture maker Steelcase – as the automaker’s president and CEO. Hackett succeeds longtime Ford exec Mark Fields, who is retiring.
A Forbes article provides some excellent context for the shakeup, noting that Hackett’s appointment comes “as the auto industry shifts from selling sheet metal to offering a range of mobility services.”
“The appointment of the ex-CEO of Steelcase, who ran Ford’s Smart Mobility division since March 2016 and has served on the company’s board, left many questioning the choice of a former furniture executive to run an automaker over an octane-in-the-veins veteran like Fields,” Doug Newcomb wrote in the Forbes article. “But it could be a harbinger of more C-suite changes as the auto industry is transformed by technology and increasingly threatened by new Silicon Valley players such as Google, Apple and Uber.”
Hackett not only has Rust Belt street cred – he played football at the University of Michigan and later was the school’s interim athletic director – but also “is the rare buttoned-down CEO that can command the respect of the open-collar Silicon Valley crowd,” Newcomb wrote.
“We’re moving from a position of strength to transform Ford for the future,” Bill Ford said in a news release. “Jim Hackett is the right CEO to lead Ford during this transformative period for the auto industry and the broader mobility space. He’s a true visionary who brings a unique, human-centered leadership approach to our culture, products and services that will unlock the potential of our people and our business.”
All signs seem to be pointing toward a future dominated by ridiculously high-tech, automated and connected vehicles that aren’t owned by their drivers. Whether this actually becomes reality – and what this will mean for collision repairers – remains to be seen.