DETROIT — Ford is not subtle in a new ad calling out Chevrolet, Jeep and Toyota for not going along with California's efforts to cut vehicle emissions. Subtlety is not the style of Jim Farley, who moves into the CEO office atop Ford's headquarters this week.
The ad, which debuted last week as part of a new "Built for Progress" campaign, could be a sign of how Farley will run the automaker: playing up its strengths more aggressively as it seeks to differentiate itself in a changing industry.
Making Ford stand out will be among Farley's many challenges as he leads a company he grew up revering. It's a company often not easy to lead; the only CEOs to hold the job for more than eight years were both named Henry Ford.
If Farley wants to join that elite group — or at least bring more stability than his immediate two predecessors, whose tenures were only about half the length of an F-150 product cycle — he will have to successfully steer Ford through the most consequential changes in its 117-year history.
The automaker is on the verge of transforming its product portfolio, for the first time adding what it hopes are high-margin, high-volume electric vehicles. In the next few years, it plans to launch autonomous commercial services to haul both goods and people, a pivot from its traditional business model as it begins to implement the "smart city" vision espoused by departing CEO Jim Hackett. Ford is relying on alliances with Volkswagen, Mahindra and Rivian — rivals that are key to sharing the rising development costs of new technologies.
And Farley will have to do all of that while maintaining the strengths of the business today, starting with a redesigned F-150 that will hit dealerships within weeks of him assuming the CEO role.
If he is successful, Farley could position Ford as a leader in a transforming industry that is facing competition from a slew of richly valued startups. The changes, company officials believe, also would vault Ford's North American operations back to a double-digit profit margin for the first time since 2016.