Ford CEO faces first big test as he meets with investors
DETROIT — Ford’s new CEO is facing his first big test Tuesday as he tries to convince skeptical investors that he has a clear and compelling plan for the automaker’s future.
Jim Hackett, who became Ford’s CEO in May, will meet with around 100 investors in New York Tuesday afternoon.
He’s expected to discuss plans for cost-cutting as well as new partnerships, such as Ford’s recent alliance with Indian automaker Mahindra. Ford and Mahindra plan to cooperate on mobility projects, electric cars and other areas.
Hackett also will need to show he has one eye on Ford’s current products, like its money-making pickup trucks and its small cars, which have seen sales crater in the U.S. because of low gas prices.
Ford hired Hackett, in part, to turn around its share price, which has languished below $15 for the last two years even as rival General Motors Co. saw its shares rise above $40, their highest level since GM’s 2010 IPO. Ford sunk below Tesla Inc. in market value earlier this year, even though the automaker earned $4.6 billion in 2016 and Tesla has never made a full-year profit.
Investors want Hackett articulate bold plans for the near-term and the future, says Brian Johnson, an analyst with Barclays.
In the short term, Johnson said, Ford needs to get leaner and meet its financial targets. Over the long term, it should consider new moves, like forming a new electric car brand or pairing with another automaker to jointly develop engines. Ford also needs to cement itself as a leader in new mobility projects, like self-driving shuttles or car-sharing services, he said.
“In the past few years, Ford simply hasn’t had a compelling narrative that investors could latch onto,” Johnson wrote in a recent note to investors.
Hackett, the former CEO of office furniture company Steelcase Inc., joined Ford’s board in 2013. He briefly led Ford’s mobility unit before being tapped as CEO to replace Mark Fields, a company veteran.
Hackett said in May that Ford does a lot of things well, but struggled with handling complex strategy decisions. One of his first moves at Ford was to pare down the number of people reporting to him in order to speed decision-making. Hackett has eight direct reports, compared to 18 for Fields.