As Ford’s new CEO, Jim Hackett won’t have to worry about fending off attacks from President Donald Trump the way his predecessor did.
That task would be handled by Bill Ford, the executive chairman, whose role expanded last week to include overseeing government affairs and communications for the automaker.
The executive shuffle means Ford will have operational responsibilities outside of his board position for the first time since he stepped down as CEO in 2006 after a five-year tenure.
“I plan to be very active with Jim as a thought-partner,” Ford told Automotive News. “I certainly am not going to be running the company; Jim will. We are in such interesting times, and there’s so many possibilities ahead of us, that I really want to be Jim’s thought-partner as we go through this.”
Ford, 60-year-old great-grandson of Henry Ford, said his assuming the external communications duties was a strategic move to allow Hackett, 62, who has little automotive experience, to concentrate on “operating the company” and wasn’t related to recent criticism of the company’s messaging.
“Government relations, so much of that is a long-term kind of thing,” Ford said. “I’ve been around this company a long time, and hopefully will be here a long time. So it made sense to do that as well.”
Ford has been more active recently as the voice of the automaker, meeting directly with candidate Trump during the heat of the presidential campaign last year in an effort to quell attacks on the company’s investment plans in Mexico, and co-signing a statement against the new president’s executive order restricting immigration.
In his new role, Ford, who has long advocated environmental stewardship as a company priority, will frame Ford Motor Co.’s position on fuel-economy standards and climate- change policy at a time when the Trump administration is pledging to roll back environmental regulation.
He will also have to articulate Ford’s corporate vision to the investment community and overcome persistent skepticism over its embrace of mobility and new business models — a task that ex-CEO Mark Fields struggled with.
Hackett and Ford, who have known each other for a number of years, last week repeatedly referred to each other as “partners” under the company’s new executive structure.
“Bill has a special role in the world,” Hackett said during a news conference Monday, May 22, at Ford’s headquarters. “He can see heads of state. He can play a key role in policy for the company.”
Ford will have two direct reports in his external-affairs role: Ziad Ojakli, vice president of government and community relations; and Mark Truby, vice president of communications, who was named to the position last week to replace communications veteran Ray Day.
Previously, Ojakli and Day, who will work as a consultant until retiring at year end, reported directly to Fields as CEO.