We told you the other day about Ford CEO Jim Hackett’s latest attempt to placate employees who might hold reservations about the company’s streamlining plan and their leader’s vision for the future. Obviously, there’s little he could say to make the axe about to fall on legions of workers any less sharp.
One individual whose approval Hackett doesn’t have to worry about — in the short term, anyway — is his superior, Ford Chairman Bill Ford, Jr.
Ford took time this week to throw his support behind the man guiding his company’s $11 billion restructuring plan, lifting a CEO who’s found himself on the defensive numerous times over the past year.
While articulating his future-minded vision on stage often isn’t the easiest thing for Hackett, explaining the need for cost efficiencies in this week’s employee memo wasn’t as much of a struggle. The company’s ranks grew too fast after the recession, he claimed, and the workforce expansion wasn’t matched by profits.
Hackett has always said that pensive analysts and investors need to wait for his plan to bear fruit. Currently, the company’s stock shows no signs of buoyancy.
“I think the ability to hold the now, the near and the far all together at one time is something you don’t always see in executives. And Jim (Hackett) has that,” Ford told Reuters at a Houston energy conference on Tuesday. “We’re changing a lot. And change is difficult.”
Changing the public’s mind will be difficult, too, as American consumers show little interest in buying electric vehicles that aren’t saddled with bags of taxpayer cash or a virtue-signalling Tesla badge. And that’s what Ford’s pushing in its plan — six electric vehicles by 2022, joined by a slew of hybrids.
Lest anyone think Hackett’s gone totally off his nut, the company also has many new and revamped light truck models either arriving or on the way. Minus the Mustang, Ford’s future looks to be a mix of light trucks and EVs, with a long-range sport crossover due in 2020 serving as the vanguard of the green vehicle push. Volkswagen might let Ford have access to its MEB architecture in the near future, saving the company piles of cash that might otherwise be spent on R&D.
On that front, Ford said, “We have very clear ideas of where we want to go [with Volkswagen].” The chairman added that the automaker is thinking of sealing a supply deal with a lithium producer in the interest of maintaining a stable battery supply.
While Hackett claims 2019 will be a pivotal year for the company, all of this slashing and investing has to translate into healthy earnings and a happy Wall Street before the CEO can rest easy.