Marriage of State? Bill Ford's Daughter Joins Rivian Board

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
marriage of state bill fords daughter joins rivian board

On Friday, Ford Motor Co. announced Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr’s daughter would immediately join Rivian’s board of directors. In 2019, the automaker dumped $500 million into the electric vehicle startup with aims to build a new Lincoln product using its “skateboard” platform. That plan was scrapped earlier this week, leaving us wondering what that meant for the partnership.

The Blue Oval has since reaffirmed its commitment to use Rivian’s hardware on another project, and now has this marriage of state (or whatever the more tepid modern equivalent would be) with Mr. Ford’s daughter.

Alexandra Ford English has a fairly brief professional history within the automotive industry. She’s been with Ford since 2017, moving from an MBA intern to working within the automaker’s mobility program. She was made director of autonomous vehicles that same year and was later promoted to director of corporate strategy in February of 2020.

Prior to that, English was working as a merchandiser for Gap in San Francisco before doing a short stint at Tory Burch in New York City. While we’re not convinced clothing retail has much overlap with the automotive industry, it likely provided a foundation for understanding product strategy and sales. It likewise helps tamp down some criticisms of nepotism, which can’t really be avoided in this instance. She also has an enviable schooling resume, which includes a biology degree from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard.

“Alexandra and I share a deep passion for mobility and electrification, and her connection to Ford’s long family role in transportation is something special. I am looking forward to working closely with her and the perspective that she will bring to the Board,” RJ Scaringe, Rivian founder and CEO, said in the announcement.

English is essentially filling a void created by the surprise departure of Joe Hinrichs. A Ford veteran of almost two decades, Hinrichs was heading Ford Automotive when he was tapped to join Rivian’s board. But he left suddenly in February, leading to rampant speculation that Ford CEO Jim Hackett and current COO Jim Farley threw him under the bus over the botched Explorer launch. While that may have been the case, it’s equally plausible that Hackett simply made an executive decision to cut a high-ranking official at a time when Ford’s share price was nosing sharply downward — especially when Hinrichs was so willing to address problems, saying this year needed to be better.

Hackett and Farley have also supported branching out to new business avenues stemming from connected vehicles and Ford’s various mobility programs, while Hinrichs was seen as prioritizing the traditional side of the company. That alone could have made him a bad fit, but it seems an insufficient reason for firing him or asking him to “retire.”

“Our strategic partnership with Rivian plays an important role in the future of fully networked battery electric vehicles,” said Jim Hackett, Ford president and CEO. “With Alexandra’s experience in mobility and self-driving services, she will bring a unique perspective to Rivian’s board during this transformational time in our industry.”

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

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  • Jkross22 Jkross22 on May 04, 2020

    TL;dr Undergrad degree in Biology from Stanford, MBA from Harvard Worked at the Gap as a merchandiser and in mgmt training program Worked at Tony Burch (women's clothing company) Worked as MBA intern at Ford, then was the director for their autonomous vehicle division and now is a director over corporate strategy. Now she's on the board of directors for Rivian. A few questions: 1) Why did she earn a biology degree and then work at the Gap and Tony Burch? This is peculiar. 2) What were her significant accomplishments at Ford? 3) How did her advancement at Ford to Director positions leverage her prior successes? 4) What understanding of engineering does she possess that would make her a good fit for leading autonomous vehicles groups? 5) What business successes does she have that would make her a good fit for leading corporate strategy? 6) Lastly, what lessons learned as a leader at Ford can she bring to Rivian? I ask these things because I'm sure it had nothing to do with her name.

    • See 2 previous
    • Ash78 Ash78 on May 05, 2020

      Agree on all counts. And the biggest question of all is "How can someone who has seen MAYBE half of one business cycle be qualified to make strategic and governance decisions for a company?" When I was in my 20s, I thought I was hot sh*t, too. I had lived through the dot com bubble and 9/11. I've seen it all!

  • Brett Woods Brett Woods on May 05, 2020

    So positive is legacy gets notch on resume. Negative, it’s 50/50 if Ford chooses to sink Rivian or run with it

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