Hinrichs' Departure Puts Heat on Ford CEO Hackett
Last Friday’s shakeup in the uppermost ranks of Ford Motor Company came as a surprise, with many employees and observers claiming that the automaker’s former president of automotive, Joe Hinrichs, took the fall for the company’s recent failings.
After announcing Hinrichs’ unexpected retirement and elevating Jim Farley, head of new businesses and autonomy, to chief operating officer (effective March 1st), CEO Jim Hackett responded to the decision in a media scrum. At the same time, Hinrichs was delivering a letter to Ford employees.
The letter sent to Ford’s automotive leadership team, obtained by Automotive News, sees Hinrichs — who showed no desire to leave in the weeks and months leading up to his departure — talk up the company’s successes.
“We concluded the investment in Rivian, literally stealing it away from GM in the last days,” Hinrichs wrote. “We took a leadership stand on climate change and, after unsuccessful attempts to bring California and the White House together, forged our own path forward with a fuel economy agreement with CARB. We helped the USMCA agreement finally come to life. We worked in the background to help the US and China finally find common ground on trade.”
From rolling out new truck and SUV models to business shakeups and streamlining efforts in China, Europe, and South America, Hinrichs offered up a hit parade for employees. The alliance with Volkswagen and Ford’s Indian joint venture with Mahindra also factored into his company’s forward-thinking successes, though these efforts have yet to bear financial fruit.
Hinrichs was also happy to see the Bronco, a product he fought for, poised to reach production.
“I will be proudly watching as that finally happens,” he wrote.
Hinrichs’ sudden departure came soon after a stock-sinking earnings report born of troubles in the Ford Explorer/Lincoln Aviator rollout, plus red ink stemming from lawsuits and recalls. He capped off the goodbye letter with a plea to the leadership team:
I do have one last request. Please pass this note along to your teams and all our wonderful Ford employees as I unfortunately will not get the chance to say thanks myself. To each and every employee at Ford Motor Company – thank you for all your love and support. It has been an honor to serve with you.
Speaking to media soon after the announcement, Hackett said Hinrichs “was beloved” by execs and employees alike. His promotion to president of automotive was only revealed by Hackett last April.
“Joe’s going to have a wonderful career. But everybody believes the momentum that we’re talking about building here is the right thing to do,” the CEO said.
Ford employees responded quickly to the news. In posts on the automaker’s internal company website (seen by the Detroit Free Press), many offered grateful tributes, characterizing Hinrichs as a “sacrificial lamb” and a “fall guy.”
Hackett’s leadership factored into several posts, with one employee claiming, “In the last couple years I did not see even one person who supported Hackett.”
The newspaper noted that emails sent to Hinrichs over the weekend bounced back, showing that the man once seen as a candidate for CEO is now truly a former exec. As the automaker moves on from a terrible week, all eyes will be in the company’s stock. Its share price sank nearly 10 percent on February 5th, and Friday’s shakeup did nothing to restore investor confidence.
Dukeisduke on Feb 13, 2020
It's a little late, but for the record, here's PMD's note regarding Hackett's firing in Hinrichs in "On The Table": "Editor-in-Chief's Note: The fact that Ford tried to pin responsibility for the company's dismal fourth quarter results on Joe Hinrichs was predictable and pathetic. And I am glad he told them to go pound sand. Joe is too good and has too much to offer to depart for the Land of Leisure just yet. Any number of companies could benefit from his talent and expertise. I will name one. If Elon Musk was as smart as he thinks he is, he'd offer the moon to Joe to come in and turn Tesla into a properly functioning car company - and then get the hell out of the way. But St. Elon's ego would never allow it. I will reiterate what I said in my column. Why is Hackett still there? And when Bill Ford hands the keys to the Kingdom to Farley after Hackett is retired, I fear for the future of the company. Knowledgeable, seasoned professionals have seen right through Farley's smarm offensive from the beginning. But Farley was smart enough to know that he only had two people to convince of his brilliance and that he was "the guy" - Hackett and Bill Ford. And it worked. Now, however, and to make things worse, we're going to be forced to endure an endless series of articles in the press that canonize Farley, which is a revolting development if there ever was one. Memo to the True Believers at Ford: Good night and good luck. - PMD" Hinrichs to Tesla? Not a bad idea.
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