DETROIT — Before Ford Motor Co.'s new "change agent" CEO Jim Hackett can move the company forward, he must clean up a toxic corporate culture that had permeated the top of the Glass House until his appointment.
Days before former CEO Mark Fields was ousted last month, he was angling to fire his top lieutenant, Joe Hinrichs, to relieve pressure he faced from a skeptical board of directors, sources told Automotive News, a sister publication of Automotive News Europe. Fields' plan backfired, however, when the board decided instead to part ways with him and communications chief Ray Day, after a May 19 meeting.
It's the latest sign the automaker's One Ford culture went south once former CEO Alan Mulally retired, and is one of a host of challenges the new top executive faces.
The nation's No. 2 automaker is now piloted by a CEO with relatively little automotive experience who must figure out how to motivate a senior management team, assembled quickly, whose roles are still being defined. The automaker — facing problems common to any company in transition — is still trying to parse out what its new vision will look like, even as it braces for more change this year when a round of voluntary buyouts sends 1,400 salaried workers home for good.
All this, while maintaining day-to-day business operations amid cooling U.S. sales, increasing competition from Silicon Valley and stockholder pressure to boost share price.
"I think his challenges in the very short term are going to be difficult," Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Autotrader, said. "We're at the peak of the cycle; he's stuck with the products he's got. He does have some veterans who have worked there a long time, but he'll have to get everybody marching in the right direction."