By on May 1, 2020

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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45 Comments on “Marriage of State? Bill Ford’s Daughter Joins Rivian Board...”


  • avatar
    Imagefont

    I guess since more company board members are useless anyway it’s the perfect place to engage in a little nepotism.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    First the Lincoln exit, now this. I’m having doubts about the longevity of the Ford/Rivian relationship.

  • avatar
    TimK

    Rivian has a backlog of $3B+ from just the Amazon delivery truck order, and once they start cranking out vehicles later this year the early stage investors will want to see an exit plan, either a IPO or a sale to some big fish. Ford just wants to keep an eye on things.

  • avatar
    ravenuer

    “….and her connection to Ford’s long family role in transportation is something special….”.
    Don’t forget working at The Gap.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Very attractive, rich, connected (Ford) and smart. The world is at her feet. (no snark – it s a compliment)

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    Ford’s track record of appointing competent leaders isn’t great.

    She is cute however.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      ‘Pretty’ is a more accurate word (with my bias).

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      @CKNSLS – agreed. Jim Hackett was a furniture maker before Ford, and so far, I don’t think he’s done a very good job. I liked Alan Mulally.

      Yes, she is cute / pretty, but I’ll remind everyone she’s intelligent too. Even with money and connections to get into Stanford and Harvard, earning a degree in bio (science!) and an MBA from Harvard are real accomplishments, and not something rich children usually attempt.

      I hope she studies up on Rivian and learns the terrain.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        I’m not necessarily as impressed with the Harvard MBA. My 2¢: The intellectual floor at top MBA programs is lower than it is for med schools or for top law schools. I’m thinking in particular of a top-five b-school alumnus/doofus VP of accounting with whom I used to work and comparing him to people I know who went to top-five law schools or to *any* accredited US medical school. Also, George W. Bush went to Harvard Business School after getting rejected by the University of Texas School of Law.

        I’ll emphasize that I said “intellectual floor” and not “intellectual ceiling.” I know some extremely bright people with MBAs.

        As to nepotism, I try to take a “don’t judge a book by its cover, either well or ill” approach. Kermit Roosevelt III, e.g., is someone whose intellect absolutely lives up to his last name.

        • 0 avatar
          WheelMcCoy

          @Featherston

          Absolutely agree that Harvard, and its importance to society, is highly overrated. Lawrence Summers epitomizes that.

          Also agree MBAs can be bright. That Alexandra Ford English majored in bio at Stanford tells me she’s willing to work instead of coast on her family name.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            @ WheelMcCoy – Disclaimer: Featherston’s been drinking . . . .

            Yes and no. I was more dissing (a) the concept of “Let’s put the BUSINESSMAN! in charge” and (b) the stature of HBS as compared to Harvard College, Harvard Law, or Harvard Med. Or, not to pick on HBS, let’s say Kellogg as compared to Northwestern Law or Med or its engineering school. My 2¢ cont’d: America’s at its best when the smart people (be they doctors, engineers, lawyers, accountants, PhD’s, random people with good sense, and, yes, smart MBAs) are making decisions and not random “How are my stock options looking for next quarter looking?” MBAs.

            And I disagree that Harvard University is overrated, though that’s essentially a matter of who’s doing the rating. Is Nolan Ryan overrated? OK, bad example, he’s *definitely* overrated. Is Tom Seaver overrated? It depends on who’s rating him and how highly.

            Context: I have double-figures’ worth of friends and relatives with Harvard diplomas, spread across at least four of the University’s schools (including the b-school). Each and every one of them is extremely, extremely bright. Through them, I *am* aware of, maybe, two or three people who got nepotism’d into Harvard College or Harvard Business School. It’s a pretty tiny percentage of students though, an order of magnitude or two lower than what societal griping would have you believe.

            I infer from past comments that dal20402 is an HLS graduate. He can probably weigh in more authoritatively than I can.

            I mentioned Kermit Roosevelt III above because one of my friends–who’s absolutely one of the smartest people I’ve ever met–lived in the same “house” (dorm/residential college to us common folk) at Harvard College. My buddy’s salt of the earth, raised by immigrant parents in a working-class town, and suffers neither fools nor pretentious fops. He pronounced Kermit “really, REALLY smart.”

            And again, I want to temper my criticism of MBAs. I think an MBA can really complement a given person’s existing skill set. But they can be less, or even far less, than they’re cracked up to be by a lot of people.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I’ll try to be polite about what your average HLS student thinks about your average HBS student.

            Or maybe I won’t. Your average HLS student is smarter and works harder than all but a few of the HBS kids. It’s not a school for many of them, it’s a networking opportunity to meet rich and well-connected peers.

            I’m vastly more impressed by the Stanford bio degree, which requires passing some actually hard classes.

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            @Featherston

            By overrated, I mean other institutions that are equal to or better than Harvard are overlooked, whether by prospective parents and students, or employers looking to hire.

            Heh, I get the analogy between Tom Seaver and Ryan Nolan, but at least Seaver is recognized and pretty well liked. I miss the days of Seaver, Matlack, and Koosman, with McGraw in the bullpen.

          • 0 avatar
            WheelMcCoy

            @dal – Re: HBS

            When parents of a daughter planning to attend HBS told me about “ethics class” there, I scoffed, remarking that if you don’t have ethics by your early 20s, you’ll never have them.

            “No, no. You misunderstand,” they explained. “That class is to teach you how to hold an ethical conflict in your head and still act in the best interest of company. That is, how to handle yourself when your company acts legally, but also intentionally steps into the moral gray zone.”

            By that measure alone, I would have flunked out. The daughter, who once saw herself as an economist one day, went to med school instead. (Her parents are both doctors.)

  • avatar

    where’s Hunter?

    • 0 avatar

      He is busy handling foreign affairs. According to my anonymous sources:

      “Robert Hunter Biden (born February 4, 1970) is an American lawyer and lobbyist who accidentally happens to be the second son of former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

      He co-founded Rosemont Seneca Partners, an international consulting firm to take bribes from foreign governments on behalf of his father, in 2009. Biden served as an expert on the board of Burisma Holdings, a major Ukrainian natural gas producer, from 2014 and, president Donald Trump to be damned, in 2019 he was forced to resign.

      In October 2019, Biden also resigned from the Board of Directors of a Chinese private investment fund he co-founded, BHR Partners, saying he wanted to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest while his father was running from presidency.”

    • 0 avatar
      barksdale

      Hahahahaha. Talk about throwing hand grenades in glass houses.

      I see your ONE (admittedly smarmy) Hunter and raise you an entire family of epic nepotism, corruption, and inherited wealth masquerading as expertise and competence:

      Ivanka – “created” millions of jobs… how exactly? and how did she get her job?
      Jared – Netflix doc Dirty Money details it all
      Don the con Jr. – talk about daddy issues. how did he get his job?
      Eric – how did he get his job?
      DJT – a well-documented con artist and lying narcissist

      That’s called the Royal Flush-Your-Country-Down-the-Toilet in the Make America Gross Again card game.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I don’t see the Ford and Rivian business venture totally ending. More likely Ford has suspended their venture with Rivian and will resume it at a latter date. With Covid-19 and an oversupply of oil now is not the time for Ford to make electric trucks especially with Ford’s mounting losses. Very possible in the near future Rivian makes electric trucks for Ford especially once Rivian full fills most of their order for Amazon. It is beneficial for Ford to have a family member on Rivian’s board.

  • avatar
    Heino

    The Gap could really use her help right now.

  • avatar
    Rich Fitzwell

    American Royalty, The Ford Family, is that a book title?

    My favorite “Ford” is actually a Firestone, I love Martha, she should be choosing the executives at Ford, not her idiot son.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The thirst in this thread is pretty epic.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      There was a lot of vitriol thrown around in a different thread where the qualifications of someone who went from bartender to the US House of Representatives was questioned. I think the word wasn’t thirst, but rather Mysoginy. As this woman has far more relevant experience, perhaps that’s the word you were seeking rather than thirst.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Thirst and misogyny are very often two sides of the same coin.

        I’m 44 years old and have been following politics since I was a little kid. There has not been someone in public life in my memory who has attracted as much of both as Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.

        • 0 avatar
          Guy A

          I am same age and understand your point. She courts the publicity and she has jumped from being a barmaid to being a congressman.
          As to Alexa Ford, the name helped but getting a science degree gives her academic credibility.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        Art, Questioning someone’s credentials and thin resume isn’t misogyny. Doing so because of their gender is. The problem is that it’s much easier to point a finger and accuse someone of the insult dujour (racist/sexist being the primary ones) instead of thinking about the question presented.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      @ dal – LOL (at myself, not at you). I hadn’t noticed your comment down here when I entered my second comment above. I’m too old to know precisely what “thirst” means. My rambling really was directed against my doofus ex-colleague and not Ms. Ford.

      OK, laptop down and glass up for the good of us all . . . .

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Y’all, commenting on a woman’s looks in a context where that’s not relevant is (a) sexist, and (b) detracts from the very real effort that women have to put in just to have executive careers. I love you guys, but you have to stop.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Personally I don’t care about her look or whether she deserves her role or not. Ford is a family business despite being public, and she’s probably smart and qualified but so are many other people. Let’s be honest here, without her family connection she would have not been where she is regardless of her intelligence and work so far.

    Anyways, that’s how the world works, the riches set the rules. It is not just Ford and it is not just America. Now regarding to Harvard, I personally think it is a school with lots of influential children and some very smart grass root students. Depends on which kind of graduates they are I’d look at them differently. To be honest IMO Harvard / Yale / Princeton / etc are all just a place to issue diplomas to make the riches look good among a sea of very well qualified hard working “rest of us”. Just look at their science and engineering dept and you can tell Harvard is not that great.

    Now MIT on the other hand, IMO earn its reputation, and I’d respect anyone who got in and got out regardless of their family connections.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      AJ

      Valid questions.

      I’m married to a working biologist, who was recently telling me about interviewing undergrads with a Biology degree for several entry level jobs. One of the individuals to my wife’s surprise had very little lab experience, including any related summer jobs or even an internship, which getting into the science industry is rather competitive. We guessed that she had better things to do with her time during college than gain any working experience besides showing up for class? They passed on her for the job, so maybe she too went to the Gap?!

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      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!

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    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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