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CEO Jim Hackett pushing Ford team as investors watch with caution

Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

Ford has moved a long way from the One Ford concept Alan Mulally used to lead the company out of the trough of 2008-09, when employees had business cards bearing the simple company message.

Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Autotrader, said, "At some point, he has to create a vision that every employee understands and gets on board with. You do need to get everybody singing from the same song sheet and understanding where they're going. I don't know if Ford's vision is fully formulated. GM is ahead on where it's going and how it's going to get there. Hopefully Hackett provides more clarity."

As he takes Ford from a beloved maker of the bestselling F-150 pickup to a "mobility provider," he wrote in a post for Medium, "The challenge is enormous."

No one disagrees.

Hackett talks about "orchestrating the entire transportation network that is already woven into the fabric of our urban environments and civic life. But it is a task we must undertake because the old system is failing."

The New York Times wrote in November 2017 the design-minded executive uses "fuzzy terms more common to urbanists than business people, and talking with him can feel like taking a college philosophy seminar after a few bong rips."

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No dumbing down

Employees at Ford have referred to Hackett as "gauzy in places" and "conceptual." Some compare Hackett to physicist Stephen Hawking talking about black holes.

"He's not going to dumb down because we're not dumb. He's not going to make it simple, because it's not simple. People will look back in a few years and say, 'I understand now,'" said a member of the executive team who didn't feel comfortable publicly critiquing the CEO but authorized use of remarks.

Many on the Ford team note that investors haven't rewarded achievements over the past seven months that include:

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