By on February 7, 2020


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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23 Comments on “Automotive Head Joe Hinrichs Gone Amid Ford Shakeup...”

  • avatar

    Well, someone’s head to roll over the Explorer fiasco.

  • avatar

    Hinrichs out, Farley in… can’t WAIT for Autoextremist’s next column. This is his doomsday scenario for Ford, for what seems like good reason.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, it’s gonna be good. Also should make for a good Autoline Daily today.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for pointing out the autoextremist site, never seen or heard of it before. Makes for some great reading.

      • 0 avatar

        Peter DeLorenzo ( has some interesting perspective – but be aware that when he discusses specific personalities, his view can be skewed based on who he knows and talks to at the companies.

        (DeLorenzo’s father did advertising for Cadillac back in the day. DeLorenzo has an axe to grind with Jim Farley, for example, because Farley changed Ford’s advertising agency [after 73 years].)

  • avatar

    Hinrichs points at assembly line worker – “It’s all his fault.”

  • avatar

    Check out those high-water pants in the last picture. This is what happens when you get dressed in the dark and grab your wife’s jeans by mistake.

  • avatar

    “…is retiring from the automaker.”

    With a nice golden parachute, I presume.

  • avatar

    When is Ford going to realize Wall Street is run by young know-nothings who are dazzled by tech and have no respect for basic industrial companies with their “old” ways of doing things? The only thing an industrial company can do to goose stock price is buy their own stock.

    The whiz kids think that means the company is doing well and bid up the stock price. Ford should have taken half the money they put into “mobility” and bought Ford stock.

    • 0 avatar

      Isnt Barra courting wall street favor too?


    • 0 avatar

      Steve Jobs was an assho!e, but he did one thing exactly right as a businessman: he built the business he wanted to build, and told analysts to go pound sand or ignored them. If you build a genuinely successful business at a big public company, the stock price will follow. Braying analysts who insist that management think about stock price first lead companies into oblivion.

  • avatar

    “…a profit loss of nearly 99 percent…”

    Could be worse.

  • avatar
    Michael S6

    If Hack-it doesn’t turn this titanic(explorer) around then his days are numbered as well.

    • 0 avatar

      I think this was a defensive move by Hackett to buy his neck some time. Kevin McAllister at Boeing Commercial Airplanes was clipped but it didn’t save CEO Dennis Muilenburg. I’d bet a Benjamin the BOD is giving Hackett that gunfighter stare.

  • avatar

    I bought Ford stock on the day of the earnings announcement, in the prospect of Hackett being tossed by his 65th birthday, which is this April, and being replaced by someone competent, like Mike Manley.

    Nope. Instead, Ford promotes another beancounter. Farley’s big achievement at Toyota was launching Scion, and we know how that worked out. As Farley has bounced around at Ford, he has done time in the loss making operation in South America, and the loss making operation in Europe. Worst of all, Farley seems enamored of the same sort of first year B-school student double-talk nonsense as Hackett. My bottom line is Hackett promoted someone he sees as a “mini-me”. McNerney promoted Muilenburg for his emulation of McNerney’s love of Welchism, and we have seen how that worked out for Boeing.

    For the halibut, I looked up Mark Fields’ bio. Fields was the Ford CEO bounced after three years and replaced by Hackett. Fields has a bachelor’s in economics and an MBA from Harvard, but Wiki does not list his concentration.

    Hackett is a college football player with a degree in “general studies”.

    Farley has a bachelor’s in economics and an MBA in finance.

    All the hype about autonomy and EVs, plus continuing pressure on fuel efficiency and safety, and none of these guys can talk to an engineer, or understand what an engineer is trying to tell them.

    When I was in college, in the 70s, I talked with big three college recruiters. Their requirements to talk to anyone for product planning: *first* a bachelors in engineering, then an MBA.

    Mulally has a bachelors and masters in aeronautical engineering as well as a masters in management from MIT.

    Mike Manley has a BS in engineering and an MBA.

    Lee Iacocca held a degree in industrial engineering and started at Ford as an engineer.

    Sold my Ford stock this morning.

  • avatar

    Hackett’s Ford days are numbered …and rightly so..

  • avatar

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

  • avatar

    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!

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