Ford Motor Company To Name New CEO, Reports Say

May 22, 2017
Originally published on May 22, 2017 7:50 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The CEO of Ford is out of a job. Ford has confirmed this morning that Mark Fields is leaving after just three years. In that period, Ford's truck and SUV sales hit record levels. But at the same time, Ford's value slid nearly 40 percent, according to the stock market. Fields had been under pressure from the board for that weak value. So let's talk about this and much more with NPR business correspondent Sonari Glinton, who's on the line. Hi, Sonari.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: What's wrong with Ford?

GLINTON: Well, SUV and truck sales are up, as you said. And Ford and Mark Fields have been trying to, you know, trim around the edges. They laid off about - there was a buyout of about 1,400 people at Ford. But all of the executives in the car industry are inundated thinking about electric cars and self-driving cars. You know what Wall Street is thinking about? Profits, and that 40 percent decline is a real problem for Mark Fields.

INSKEEP: So Ford is selling a lot of cars - is this what you're telling me? - but not making enough on each car and not doing well enough to position itself for the future?

GLINTON: That's the key. You said car. They are selling a lot of trucks and SUVs. And they're losing a bunch of money in the low end, and that is fuel-efficient vehicles, in part because the - because car sales are depressed while SUV and truck sales are up. And so people are wondering, well, why aren't you making the profits out of these things that should be carrying the way.

INSKEEP: So who was Mark Fields? I guess we should say, who is Mark Fields. It's not like he's dead, but he's losing his job.

GLINTON: Yeah, Mark Fields has been with the company for 28 years. He - you know, he went to Rutgers, went to Harvard Business School, spent some time at IBM and then spent an entire career at Ford. And he went - he had almost every important job you could imagine. He ran Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mazda. His big achievement, though, was sort of helping Ford not get into the problems that General Motors did or Chrysler did by going bankrupt.

So they sold almost everything, including the Ford oval. And that's what he will be known for - helping Ford and then-CEO to, you know, rescue this ancient brand.

INSKEEP: You know, I'm thinking the automakers aren't necessarily known for outsider CEOs. They go inside the company or inside the industry to find somebody, so who's Ford going to find?

GLINTON: Well, technically this is an insider 'cause he was a former board member. And he's - Jim Hackett is right now running the autonomous or self-driving part of Ford. But he mainly spent his career in the 20 years before this as the CEO of Steelcase, which you may recognize as being the office furniture company.

INSKEEP: Oh, so this is a bit of an outsider. He's gotten his feet wet but, he's a little bit outside.

GLINTON: Exactly.

INSKEEP: Now, should other auto industry CEOs be worried given the unsettled moment for - for the auto industry?

GLINTON: Well, if you're not Elon Musk, Wall Street doesn't seem to have time for you. Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, is facing an investor challenge. Toyota's head has been predicting a second year of falling profits. And he's been begging people not to call their cars boring. Fiat Chrysler's CEO is facing his own diesel crisis here with regulators in the U.S. And Volkswagen, the king of diesel crises are - is the CEO of that company is facing a challenge from the German equivalent of the Securities and Exchange Commission. So it ain't a great time to be a car CEO except for, you know, the $19 million or so that Mark Fields made last year.

INSKEEP: Well, there is that, but a moment of disruption once again in the auto industry. And NPR's Sonari Glinton is there to tell us about it. Sonari, thanks very much.

GLINTON: Always a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.