DEARBORN – Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett reassured a group of approximately 150 of the company’s retired engineering executives that Ford is making progress in delivering on its strategy at a recent gathering at the Dearborn Inn.
“The company is in great shape,” said Hackett, recapping his presentation from a recent meeting with Ford dealers. “It’s not 2008 all over again, but some things have happened since then that I wish we had done differently.”
For instance, Ford’s vehicle lineup has the highest average age in the industry due to deferments in new products in recent years. And like its product portfolio, Ford’s business is overdue for a restructure. Hackett then went on to explain the company’s fitness redesign.
Unlike the other Detroit Three automakers, Ford emerged from the recession with a new portfolio of vehicles, but GM and Chrysler became better competitors because the bankruptcy process forced them to reorganize their operations, he said.
“Every business in the world goes through transitions or changes where they completely redesign the business,” he said. “I’m trying to get our people to step back and say ‘Do we have the right design?’”
Hackett said Ford has been “losing our shirts in cars” for years. Now, with an emphasis on crossovers, SUVs and trucks, Ford is focusing on the types of vehicles the market is demanding. “We’re doubling down on silhouettes that make money,” he said, adding the change will ultimately result in Ford and its dealers having more products to offer customers.
In discussing the fitness of Ford’s business, Hackett explained how it took 81 days – the same standard that existed decades ago – for his wife to take delivery of her new Mustang. The process was delayed an additional 15 days due to a recall, forcing them to wait a total of 96 days for delivery.
“There is no business in the world whose clock speed isn’t faster in the last 20 years,” he said.
Hackett talked about how the Fusion team has come together and found a way to reduce orderable configurations on the 2019 model from more than 1,900 to approximately 30. This not only has simplified the ordering process for dealers and customers, it has helped Ford streamline the manufacturing process, improving global order-to-delivery time by 63 percent.
Hackett said the Enterprise Product Line Management team has been created to address user experience. One area where it could make an impact is in gaining insights into things such as regional preferences for features like third-row seating and infotainment screen size. He also touted Ford’s progress in autonomous vehicle development, while cautioning against the hype surrounding the implementation and eventual mass adoption of self-driving vehicles.
“It’s further away than the world knows and Ford is going to be significantly stronger,” he said, while spotlighting Ford’s recent self-driving vehicle experience held in Miami.
Attendees got to spend about 20 minutes asking Hackett questions on a range of topics from potential collaboration with Volkswagen, Ford’s Dearborn campus transformation, the return of the Ford Ranger to North America and the return of the Ford Bronco.
Former product development manager George Magro, who retired in 2005, enjoys attending the group’s monthly get-togethers, which often feature company leadership as guest speakers.
“There’s a lot of questions we have as former leaders that are difficult to answer because they can be very convoluted,” said Magro. “I am very proud of my company now and I was very proud of it then. That’s why I continue to come to things like this because these are important communication levels for those of us who really care about this company.”