Ford Board to Grill Fields on Mobility Strategy After a Sucky First Quarter

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
ford board to grill fields on mobility strategy after a sucky first quarter

The board of directors at Ford Motor Company will be seeking answers from CEO Mark Fields on how the brand’s mobility strategy played a role in its lackluster annual earnings report. Inside sources claim board members made extra time leading up to Thursday’s annual shareholders meeting to discuss the company’s future with the CEO.

Fields has promoted Ford’s evolution into a mobility company ever since taking the helm in 2014 — something investors haven’t been particularly receptive of. During Fields’ tenure as CEO, shares in the company have fallen by 35 percent. However, with tech-focused companies typically receiving above-average valuations, the methodology behind his strategy appears sound. Ford has spent billions on the development of autonomous technology and showcased mobility concepts that even Tesla hasn’t bothered with.

While many seem too impractical or far-fetched to deserve serious attention, the capital behind its self-driving efforts have kept Ford near the front of the pack in the autonomous race. So, what’s the problem?

That’s what the board is hoping to find out. Ford splitting its role as a traditional automaker and ultra-modern mobility company could be part of the problem. First quarter earnings fell 42 percent in the first quarter, while General Motors has seen comparatively stable profits. However, GM is also playing the mobility game — just not quite as loudly as Ford. General Motors has also focused more on its current product and distribution than the Blue Oval. It has fielded more purpose-built EVs and dominates the domestic SUV market, giving it an advantage.

“GM has been a bit more aggressive in pure electric cars and on car-sharing and ride-hailing with their investment in Lyft,” said David Whiston, an analyst with Morningstar Inc.

Meanwhile, Ford is attempting to hold its ground while looking further into the future. “We’re having one foot in today and one foot in tomorrow,” Fields told Bloomberg in April.

Still, focusing so heavily on the future doesn’t seem to be helping the Ford of today. The company almost appears to be setting itself up for success ten years from now at the expense of the next three. It’s uncharacteristic of a century-old automaker and not everyone has been receptive, investors least of all.

“This is the first public sign that the board is becoming impatient,” Whiston said. “It’s likely proof that the board is frustrated with the stock price languishing for the past several years. It may be a grilling session for Mark.”

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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  • Bikegoesbaa Bikegoesbaa on May 10, 2017

    Equivalent headline from 1907: "Amalgamated Buggywhip and Bridle Company board questions CEO for questionable 'horseless carriage' ventures"

  • Zip89123 Zip89123 on May 11, 2017

    While I wouldn't call it a mobility issue, the Escape would greatly benefit if it had the Fusion's hybrid drivetrain.

  • Analoggrotto Does it include a date with Mary Barra?
  • Tassos ask me if I care.
  • ToolGuy • Nice vehicle, reasonable price, good writeup. I like your ALL CAPS. 🙂"my mid-trim EX tester is saddled with dummy buttons for a function that’s not there"• If you press the Dummy button, does a narcissist show up spouting grandiose comments? Lol.
  • MaintenanceCosts These are everywhere around here. I'm not sure the extra power over a CR-V hybrid is worth the fragile interior materials and the Kia dealership experience.
  • MaintenanceCosts It's such a shame about the unusable ergonomics. I kind of like the looks of this Camaro and by all accounts it's the best-driving of the current generation of ponycars. A manual 2SS would be a really fun toy if only I could see out of it enough to drive safely.