Automotive Head Joe Hinrichs Gone Amid Ford Shakeup

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
automotive head joe hinrichs gone amid ford shakeup

Joe Hinrichs, a top Ford executive tasked with overseeing the company’s global businesses, manufacturing, and product development — and once seen as a potential successor to CEO Jim Hackett — is retiring from the automaker.

The news comes just days after a dismal fourth-quarter earnings report revealed a profit loss of nearly 99 percent in 2019 and a Q4 hit of more than $1.6 billion — with much of the financial damage stemming from the botched launch of the next-generation Explorer.

In the shakeup announced Friday, Jim Farley, formerly head of new businesses, strategy, and all things autonomous, becomes Ford’s new chief operating officer. Effective March 1st, Farley will oversee global markets and automotive operations while maintaining his role as head of Ford Smart Mobility and autonomous vehicle development.

Hau Thai-Tang, head of product development and purchasing, sees his role expand. In addition to his present duties, he’ll be put in charge of Enterprise Product Line Management and connectivity.

Since his arrival in May 2017, Hackett’s chief goal has been the elevation of the automaker’s stubbornly depressed stock — a goal he hoped to reach by convincing Wall Street that Ford had what it takes to make future dollars in the still-emerging world of electric mobility and autonomous vehicle development. This strategy was backed up by a continued focus on popular, high-margin vehicles like trucks and SUVs.

The pricey redesign of what’s arguably the company’s second most important vehicle, the Explorer, fell under that strategy. Joined by a new Lincoln Aviator platform mate, the next-generation Explorer launched last year and immediately ran into trouble. Serious quality issues cropped up on the Chicago assembly line, leaving thousands of SUVs in limbo, awaiting fixes, as dealerships struggled to meet their customers’ needs. Explorer sales fell 26 percent in 2019.

Against this backdrop, including the stock-sinking earnings report, one has to wonder if Hinrichs was forcibly retired. The exec, as well as Farley, took on their current roles only in April of last year.

“I thank Joe for his tremendous leadership over the past two decades,” Hackett said at the tail end of a media release. “Joe was instrumental to Ford’s ability to survive the Great Recession a decade ago without bankruptcy or taxpayer bailout, and successfully headed Ford’s operations in Asia Pacific and North America.

He added, “Most recently, Joe oversaw our global portfolio of iconic vehicles, helped forge a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship with the UAW and was regularly sought out as an authority and promoter of smart global trade.”

Hackett didn’t waste time in lauding Farley, who joined Ford in 2007 as head of marketing and sales. Clearly, he’s now the prospective CEO frontrunner by a mile.

“Jim Farley is the right person to take on this important new role,” 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.”

Much love was also showered over Thai-Tang, who, Hackett stated, shares his company’s commitment to “strong returns.”

“Hau will be the primary architect as we bring together the vehicle architecture and software stack to create products, services and experiences our customers will love.”

Ford’s stock, which fell nearly 10 percent on February 5th (and stayed there), did not immediately rebound over news of the shakeup. As of publication time, it’s still down 2 percent from yesterday’s close.

[Image: Ford, Adam Tonge/TTAC]

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2 of 23 comments
  • Akear Akear on Feb 07, 2020

    Jim Hackett again hides his failures behind others. He was the one that created this mess in the first place.

  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Feb 08, 2020

    Jim Hackett ruthlessly terminated Ford employees. The time has come to terminate him (I know with golden parachute). It is time for the new sequel of "Terminator" franchise. Arnold we need you!

  • Lou_BC "They are the worst kind of partisan - the kind that loves their team more than they want to know the truth."Ummm...yeah....Kinda like birtherism, 2020 election stolen, vast voter fraud, he can have top secret documents at Mar-lago, he's a savvy business man, and hundreds more.
  • FreedMike This article fails to mention that Toyota is also investing heavily in solid state battery tech - which would solve a lot of inherent EV problems - and plans to deploy it soon. course, Toyota being Toyota, it will use the tech in hybrids first, which is smart - that will give them the chance to iron out the wrinkles, so to speak. But having said that, I’m with Toyota here - I’m not sold on an all EV future happening anytime soon. But clearly the market share for these vehicles has nowhere to go but up; how far up depends mainly on charging availability. And whether Toyota’s competitors are all in is debatable. Plenty of bet-hedging is going on among makers in the North American market.
  • Jeff S I am not against EVs but I completely understand Toyota's position. As for Greenpeace putting Toyota at the bottom of their environmental list is more drama. A good hybrid uses less gas, is cleaner than most other ICE, and is more affordable than most EVs. Prius has proven longevity and low maintenance cost. Having had a hybrid Maverick since April and averaging 40 to 50 mpg in city driving it has been smooth driving and very economical. Ford also has very good hybrids and some of the earlier Escapes are still going strong at 300k miles. The only thing I would have liked in my hybrid Maverick would be a plug in but it didn't come with it. If Toyota made a plug in hybrid compact pickup like the Maverick it would sell well. I would consider an EV in the future but price, battery technology, and infrastructure has to advance and improve. I don't buy a vehicle based on the recommendation of Greenpeace, as a status symbol, or peer pressure. I buy a vehicle on what best needs my needs and that I actually like.
  • Mobes Kind of a weird thing that probably only bothers me, but when you see someone driving a car with ball joints clearly about to fail. I really don't want to be around a car with massive negative camber that's not intentional.
  • Jeff S How reliable are Audi? Seems the Mazda, CRV, and Rav4 in the higher trim would not only be a better value but would be more reliable in the long term. Interior wise and the overall package the Mazda would be the best choice.