Ford Motor (NYSE:F)
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By Mike Colias and Christina Rogers
Ford Motor Co. said Friday its automotive president would retire and the company would elevate another top executive to operating chief, a big leadership shake-up that follows a disappointing earnings report earlier this week.
The No. 2 U.S. auto maker by sales elevated strategy chief Jim Farley to chief operating officer Friday, giving him broader responsibilities and positioning him to potentially succeed 64-year-old Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett, who has led the company for nearly three years.
Joe Hinrichs, a 19-year veteran and manufacturing guru at the company, will retire effective March 1, the company said Friday.
The moves come three days after Ford missed fourth-quarter earnings targets and issued disappointing profit guidance for 2020. Mr. Hackett is confronting a litany of challenges, ranging from rising warranty costs and blundered new-model launches to persistent losses overseas and falling profits in its home U.S. market.
The company's stock tumbled more than 9% the day following the earnings report Tuesday, which revealed the company's profit shrank to $47 million last year, from $3.68 billion in 2018. Ford's stock was down 1.45% in morning trading Friday.
Mr. Hinrichs, 53, was named president of its automotive operations in April, putting him in charge of the company's vast car-manufacturing network globally.
At the time it made the 57-year-old Mr. Farley head of new businesses, strategy and technology, giving him responsibility for charting Ford's course as technological advances like electric and driverless cars disrupt the auto business.
Mr. Farley has been overseeing Ford's electric- and autonomous-car efforts, connected-car strategy and other long-term bets. In his new role, he will take over much of Mr. Hinrich's duties, including running Ford's vast product-development and purchasing arms.
Mr. Hinrichs's pending departure leaves the company without one of its most-seasoned manufacturing executives ahead of a critical vehicle-rollout year for Ford.
The company is gearing up to introduce late this year a revamped F-150 pickup truck, the first redesign of its most profitable model in about six years. The company also plans to roll out a return of its Bronco SUV, a model that Mr. Hinrichs heavily lobbied for internally for years.
On Ford's earnings call Tuesday, Mr. Hackett stressed the company needs to improve execution, after a botched launch of a new Ford Explorer last year caused profits to tumble in the fourth quarter.
"It does boil down to, we can't miss a beat now in the product launches, " Mr. Hackett said.
Mr. Hinrichs, an Ohio native, joined Ford nearly two decades ago and ascended through various manufacturing jobs and ran the company's Asia region during a time of explosive growth in China's car market.
As head of North America, he tackled complex manufacturing challenges, including moving the profitable and high-volume F-150 from a steel to aluminum body.
Mr. Hinrichs is well-liked and widely admired inside the company and has strong relations with auto-parts suppliers and labor officials, employees and colleagues have said.
Mr. Hackett said Mr. Farley's appointment is aimed at a goal of achieving 8% operating margins globally, roughly double Ford's margin in recent quarters.
"Jim Farley is the right person to take on this important new role," Mr. Hackett said. "Jim's passion for great vehicles and his intense drive for results are well known. He also has developed into a transformational leader with the imagination and foresight to help lead Ford into the future."
Mr. Farley joined Ford as a rising star, coming to the U.S. auto maker from rival Toyota Motor Co., where he pushed the Japanese car maker to remake its image and broaden appeal to younger buyers.
He was a key member of former CEO Alan Mulally's restructuring team and rolled out the company's "Drive One" advertising campaign that endured for years after Ford repeatedly changed slogans and approaches.
More recently, he led Ford's troubled European operations through restructuring that had for a period restored them to profitability.
When Mr. Hackett stepped into the top job in May 2017, Messrs. Farley and Hinrichs were given broad roles leading the company, effectively setting up a succession race for the next CEO.
At the time, Ford Chairman Bill Ford said part of Mr. Hackett's job would be grooming the next generation of leaders.
In addition to Mr. Farley, Ford said it would also expand the responsibilities of product chief Hau Thai-Tang, adding customer services and experience to his role.
Write to Mike Colias at Mike.Colias@wsj.com and Christina Rogers at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 07, 2020 12:21 ET (17:21 GMT)
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