DETROIT — Jim Farley's gambit at the outset of the Great Recession to leave a flourishing career at Toyota to help save a foundering Ford Motor has paid off: In less than eight weeks, he'll become CEO.
While Ford is nowhere near the precarious position it was in when Farley moved from Southern California to Michigan at the end of 2007, the 58-year-old will enter the chief executive's office Oct. 1 with much to fix.
He inherits a company that remains out of favor on Wall Street with a balance sheet weighed down by legacy warranty costs and the effects of an $11 billion global restructuring begun by his predecessor. After Ford botched the rollout of the Explorer in 2019, Farley will have to execute flawless launches of four of the automaker's most highly anticipated vehicles in recent memory.
He'll also have to continue navigating a changing industry and fend off new rivals aiming to dethrone Ford's most profitable vehicle line — F-Series pickups — with battery-electric offerings that promise eye-popping capability.
And he will have to do it all amid a global pandemic that continues to threaten Ford's dealer body, supplier network and manufacturing operations.
"While Ford's new vehicle lineup has shown some promise with the Mustang Mach-E and Bronco, we think Farley will have his work cut out to 'right the ship,' as Ford remains in the middle of a multiyear restructuring and we don't see its vehicle sales returning to pre-COVID levels anytime soon," CFRA research analyst Garrett Nelson said in an investor note last week.
But analysts say outgoing CEO Jim Hackett established a framework that could set Farley up for success, and dealers think Farley's passion for the industry and strong relationship with the retail network make him an ideal leader.