William Clay Ford Jr., Ford Motor Co.’s (NYSE: F) executive chair, really runs the company. There have been six chief executive officers over the course of his tenure to prove it. (He was CEO himself from 2001 to 2006.) Ford moved into the role of board chair in January 1999.
In order, Ford’s CEOs under Bill Ford have been Jacques Nasser from January 1, 1999, to 2001; Alan Mulally from September 5, 2006, to July 1, 2014; Mark Fields from July 1, 2014, to May 22, 2017; Jim Hackett from May 22, 2017, until yesterday; and now Jim Farley.
Mulally is the only one of these that Bill Ford and the Ford family miss. The others were pushed out because of what were deemed poor performances. In many ways, the failures really have been Bill Ford’s.
Hackett had a turnaround plan for Ford. He articulated it but never executed. That may be because Ford has started to exit its position as one of the world’s auto manufacturing giants. The only reason for its second-place position, based on market share in the United States, is its flagship F-series pickups. F-series sales in the second quarter were 180,825, out of Ford’s 433,869 total. F-series sales fell 23%, while the U.S. figure dropped 33%.
Ford sales in Europe are small and sit well behind those of Europe-based Volkswagen, PSA, Renault-Nissan, BMW and Daimler. Toyota and Hyundai-Kia also do better than Ford.
China is the world’s largest car market. Ford struggles there as well. Ford and its joint ventures in China sold 567,854 vehicles in China last year, down 26.1% compared to 2018. Ford announced the good news was that, during the fourth quarter, the company delivered 146,473 vehicles, but that is down 14.7% compared to the same period the year before.
Ford says it will be a force in electric cars and autonomous vehicles, which most car companies say is the wave of the future. Ford is not a leader in the race and is not expected to be.
Ford has two classes of shares, A shares and B shares. The Ford family has B share ownership and effectively controls the company. The existence of these shares, Ford notes, is to preserve that long-term future of the company. No one can take over Ford and ruin it. The family, instead, owns the shares and has let Ford drop into a steep decline.
The average tenure of a CEO under Bill Ford has been just over three years. This means Farley will make it to 2024, based on the calculation. At the point, Bill Ford will still be running the company.
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