Ford Motor Company's (NYSE:F) management shuffle continues. The Blue Oval announced a slew of new appointments on Thursday, filling out the executive ranks under new CEO Jim Hackett. Significantly, Ford's well-regarded product chief, Raj Nair, will take over its high-profile North America operation.
Ford also clarified and emphasized the three priorities that the company will pursue under Hackett.
Who's doing what at Ford now
In Ford's new global markets unit, reporting to Jim Farley:
- Raj Nair, already a Ford executive vice president, becomes president of the North America region. Nair was previously Ford's global product development chief and its chief technology officer. He replaces Joe Hinrichs, who was named president of global operations on Monday.
- Peter Fleet becomes group vice president and president of Ford's Asia-Pacific region and chairman and CEO of Ford China. Fleet had previously led the region's marketing, sales, and service effort. He replaces Dave Schoch, who is retiring after 40 years with Ford.
- Steven Armstrong becomes group vice president and president of Ford's Europe and Middle East and Africa regional units. Armstrong was previously Ford Europe's chief operating officer. He replaces Farley.
Ford's South America region will continue to be led by Lyle Watters, who was appointed vice president of South America last year.
- Hau Thai-Tang becomes executive vice president of product development and purchasing. A longtime standout in Ford's product development ranks, Thai-Tang had been leading its purchasing organization. He retains that role while also replacing Nair as Ford's global product development chief. He will report to Hinrichs.
- Sherif Marakby has been appointed to a newly created position as vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification. He had previously led several Ford efforts to develop hybrid and plug-in vehicles, before leaving Ford last year to join Uber Technologies.
- Ken Washington, vice president of Ford's research and advanced engineering department, retains that role and also becomes Ford's chief technology officer, succeeding Nair.
What it means for Ford shareholders
It means that some of Ford's best and brightest senior executives are getting new and expanded roles -- and that they're apparently planning to stick around under the new CEO.
The appointment of Nair to run North America is a key one. Nair is an exceptionally talented executive and engineer who had spent the majority of his career in Ford's product development operation, rising to run it in 2012. Running North America will be a change for him, but it's an appointment that suggests that Nair is being groomed for an even more senior role in the future. It's a good one.
Thai-Tang is a natural fit to succeed Nair as Ford's product chief. Known as a "car guy" who led several high-performance projects earlier in his career, Thai-Tang led Ford's global product engineering under Nair before taking charge of global purchasing in 2013. He's another well-regarded executive
Marakby is a bit less senior, but his return to Ford in a new role is an important sign. He has an extensive background in hybrid and battery-electric vehicles. He was at Ford in a series of roles from 1990 until last year -- when he left to become Uber's vice president of global vehicle programs. His decision to return to Ford, and his newly created title, signals that Ford will step up its electrification and self-driving efforts under Hackett.
About those three priorities
Ford's announcement also made clear the three priorities that will be emphasized under Hackett. In Ford's words:
- Sharpening operational execution across the global business while decisively addressing underperforming parts of the business;
- Modernizing Ford's business, using new tools and techniques to unleash innovation, speed decision making, improve efficiency and more;
- Transforming to meet future challenges and ensuring the company has the right culture, talent, strategic processes, and nimbleness to succeed as society's needs and consumer behavior changes over time.
What's next for Ford and its new leadership
I expect that once Hackett is up to speed in his new role, he'll hold some sort of event to brief analysts and journalists on his priorities and plan for Ford. I'll be surprised if that doesn't happen before Ford's second-quarter earnings report in July.