CEO who sold furniture to Steve Jobs now aims Ford Motor Co. at the future

“Jim Hackett once sold office furniture to Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs,” Jeff Green, Keith Naughton, and Jamie Butters report for Bloomberg. “He also landed Jim Harbaugh to coach University of Michigan football. Neither were easy tasks.”

“Now he has to convince investors and car buyers that Ford Motor Co. has a better idea for self-driving vehicles than the smarties in Silicon Valley — while dodging potential flak from President Donald Trump,” Green, Naughton, and Butters report. “Hackett replaced Mark Fields on Monday as CEO of the 114-year-old automaker, which is struggling with declining profits and disappointing stock performance. While he’s spent most of his career running a furniture business, the 62-year-old Hackett has a reputation as a visionary executive comfortable in the high-tech world, who’s also willing to take the scalpel to a workforce. In his 20 years as Steelcase Inc.’s CEO, Hackett cut 12,000 jobs and shifted the company from just making furniture to re-imaging how people work.”

“Should Hackett find himself cutting jobs at Ford, he’ll risk the wrath of Trump, which his predecessor felt so painfully when deciding to move small-car production to Mexico,” Green, Naughton, and Butters report. “Hackett recalled also making an impression on the famously temperamental Jobs. When Steelcase invested in the design firm IDEO in 1996, Jobs joked to a mutual friend that competitor Herman Miller Inc. was the better choice for office furniture. That led Hackett to personally sell Jobs on the merits of the products Steelcase offered. Soon, Apple’s offices were filled with Steelcase furniture.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: And now he may be taking on – or working with – another Apple CEO one day soon.

SEE ALSO:
Apple’s self-driving car spotted on the 101 in Palo Alto – May 22, 2017
Ford’s first over-the-air software update adds Apple CarPlay support – May 19, 2017

7 Comments

  1. Ford was/is actually doing quite well for a long-time player in a very mature industry, but everyone in the auto industry and the stock market is trying to chase the golden unicorn known as Tesla.

    The fact that Ford allowed an OTA update to add CarPlay functionality is a rather rather positive sign.

  2. Hackett is known as a “fixer”, having an empathetic touch when downsizing bloated companies or surgically removing dead wood in management.

    Nevertheless, it’s a worrying sign when Wall Street isn’t satisfied with a company that posted ~ $30 billion in profits in the last 3 years. Fields may have been a marketing schmuck, but Ford’s signature products — F150, Mustang, GT — have never been better. What Ford is missing is the valuable assets it axed during the Bush economic crisis — Volvo, Jaguar, and Aston Martin. Those marques would be paying serious dividends today.

    Serving the short term whims of Wall Street is not what manufacturers should be doing. The sooner they stop playing the stock price game and focus on making better products, the better.

    1. You are exactly correct: If America wants manufacturing jobs, the company shareholders need to ignore whimsical vagaries or Wall Street. Mature, Fortune 1000 manufacturing companies should be expected to have steady but somewhat “boring” profit trajectories.

      A classic example of a boring company in a boring industry which tried to act like a Silicon Valley startup: Enron.
      Tesla should be held to at least a somewhat similar profit standard as the rest of the auto industry—that’s why Ford’s stock price is so out of whack. (Same thing applies to Amazon, they should be held to a standard similar to Walmart, instead, they seem to get a free pass every quarter.)

    2. Hackett was a 3rd string guy who spent his time on the practice squad for Bo Schembechler which is a tough job- getting battered with little glory for the betterment of the playing squad. That he stuck with it shows loyalty, dedication and toughness.

      Mr Hackett is known for having a low tolerance for Bullshit, for fairness and for being unbound by tradition if it does not pay the rent. As he has the full support of the Ford Family – who control the bulk of votes through a special class of shares- so non-hackers had damn well better get their stuff packed up.

      Anybody who can stand toe to toe with Steve Jobs and show him wrong and make the sale is one capable hombre.

      As to Ford, the automotive space is facing multiple disruptions simultaneously along with a number of ongoing issues:

      1-The developing switch from petro fuels to electric. Most of the large automakers are cutting development of combustion engines and accelerating development of electrics. The Otto ICE is soon to be a novelty and relic in cars.
      2-Self driving and driver assistance is making cars into very powerful rolling computers that will be network connected, aware of surroundings, software upgradeable and more complex electrically while becoming simpler mechanically.
      3-The steady growth and improvement in robotics and AI in manufacturing. Factories will be smaller, employ fewer workers who will have to be more highly trained and flexible. Tell the UAW it’s time has passed or will very soon. Ford is transitioning it’s workforce even as it transitions process, design and manufacturing.
      4-Global competition. The Chinese are coming and are already here- GM is selling a number of Chevys and Buicks that are made in China and were designed in China. Others will soon follow and the Chinese brands are not far behind. Audi, BMW and Daimler (Mercedes) are building out car plants in Mexico to build for the US market with very cheap labor and no (thanks to NAFTA) import tariff. This will allow the German Luxury makers to fatten profits even as they put more price pressure on American production even in the non-Union South.
      5- New competitors- namely Tesla and Google. Tesla has done the hardest part of the startup, has more experience in where the puck is going than anyone, has a great portfolio of patents, has built out a worldwide network of Superchargers for it’s customers, has beaten back many arcane laws in retail and is selling a growing stable of high quality cars. Google has poured money into Self Driving Technology and has a lot of data and patents that are highly valuable.
      6- Resource scarcity will rear it’s ugly head and upend everything. Nobody studying it is exactly sure of exactly when and exactly where, but have a good idea of what it means and how disruptive it is. Almost 7 Billion people on planet with no more resources than when it had a Billion is a BFD and those not ready for it will get run over. The days of monster Pickups bought as penis extenders that get 12 MPG are soon to end.

      That is a lot of challenges and a lot of opportunity.

    3. Ford sold Volvo, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and about 1/3rd of Mazda to get the cash necessary to fix Ford under Mullally. They went to the commercial credit markets- not the Taxpayers like Gubmint Motors and Little Gubmint Motors (Fiat/Chrysler) and borrowed better than $30 Billion that had to be paid back.

      Ford simply did not have the ability to fix the Mothership and hold on to the niche luxury marques.

      I am a Ford shareholder (inherited it), but own stock in VW- now the largest maker in the world- and Tesla.

  3. I don’t know if he’s the right guy for Ford, but his appointment is certainly a very interesting move. He’s not going to be a caretaker, he’s going to make massive changes and that is an entirely different approach to most other major car manufacturers who are plotting a course of ‘steady as she goes’.

    It’s certainly tempting to make comparisons with how Steve Jobs returned to Apple and shook everything up. As we know, that turned out well but it’s impossible to know how successfully Hackett will transform Ford, however the fact that he is a tremendous advocate for autonomous vehicles, robotic assembly and 3D printing is a highly encouraging sign that he’s embracing the future rather than resisting it.

    It’s interesting that a previous poster mentioned Jaguar as a company that Ford should not have sold. Jaguar are currently developing an all-new electrically powered platform, the I-Pace, which is set to be launched early next year. It’s designed as a platform which will allow different body types to be built on what would once have been called one chassis design, but all enjoying stunning performance and a range of around 300 miles. The batteries and motors have been mounted very low in the car, making the centre of gravity unusually low with optimal weight distribution, helping to provide impressive handling and of course with all the luxury touches that people have com to expect from Jaguar at it’s best ( which sadly was not when Ford owned it ).

    More about I-Pace here – https://www.carwow.co.uk/news/jaguar-i-pace-price-concept-price-specs-release-date-3271

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