Management Shake-Up Continues at Ford

Four top execs “retire;” Lincoln chief Galhotra gets big promotion.

by on Oct.24, 2017

CEO Jim Hackett continues reshaping Ford's management team in his own image.

Ford’s new CEO Jim Hackett isn’t wasting time putting his personal stamp on the company.

Four top executives, including 37-year veteran Stephen Odell and former Wall Street investment banker John Casesa, are “retiring,” Ford announced. It’s the second major shake-up since Hackett was named CEO, replacing the ousted Mark Fields back in May. Tuesday’s personnel changes, announced two days before Ford reveals its third-quarter earnings, did bring some winners to the fore, including Kumar Galhotra, the president of the Lincoln brand now becomes Ford’s chief marketing officer.

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“The changes we are announcing today will further align resources and improve efficiencies throughout our global markets and operations,” said Hackett, a one-time CEO of furniture maker Steelcase, who was named CEO after Fields lost favor with investors, the Ford board and chairman and family heir Bill Ford.

(Ford ousts Fields, shakes up entire management team. Click Here for more on the May announcement.)

It’s far from certain whether the latest moves lock in place the organization that Hackett wants. In his statement, the 62-year-old CEO hinted that, “We will continue to reshape the organization to deliver the most value for our customers and all of our stakeholders.”

Lincoln chief Kumar Galhotra comes out the big winner in the latest Ford shake-up.

At 51, Galhotra has been a rising star at Ford, most recently put in charge of reviving the long-struggling Lincoln brand. Critically, he has overseen the luxury marque’s launch and expansion in the crucial Chinese market.

Galhotra will retain his ties to Lincoln as the brand’s group vice president. He will now become Ford’s chief marketing officer, as well.

In that role, the Indian-born executive replaces retiring Stephen Odell. The 62-year-old British native has spent 37 years at Ford and before being named its executive vice president of global marketing, sales and service had run its European operations. Odell had been something of a fireman within Ford, being assigned a series of difficult tasks over the years, among other things helping prepare Volvo for its sale to China’s Geely at the beginning of the decade.

The three other executives retiring from Ford include:

  • Bernie Fowler, the 61-year-old vice president of quality and new model launches, a 27-year Ford veteran;
  • John Casesa, at 55 the head of Global Strategy. He previously worked as an automotive analyst and investment banker, joining Ford in 2015;
  • Felicia Fields, the 52-year-old group vice president of human resources.

Stephen Odell had been running European ops before being named chief marketing officer.

Fields was one of the highest-ranking women at a carmaker that has been criticized for its lack of senior female executives. But the shake-up inaugurated by Hackett does appear aimed at correcting that gender gap, at least to some degree.

At 55, Linda Cash will now oversee quality and product launches, replacing Fowler. Birgit Behrendt, the 58-year-old who has been running global powertrain purchasing and global purchasing operations will take on the new position of vice president of joint ventures, alliances and commercial affairs. Meanwhile, , now the CEO of Ford Credit, will report directly to Ford CEO Jim Hackett. She had been reporting to Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks.

(Ford readying wave of new products, hints Hackett. Click Here for the story.)

In May, Hackett ordered a series of executive moves after being chosen to replace Fields. He then began a 100-day study of the automaker’s strategies. He outlined the results during a news conference earlier this month, admitting that the second-largest Detroit automaker had “fallen short on key targets,” including its profit margins.

There had been some questions about how the new CEO would view predecessor Fields’ big-budget push into new technologies like electric drive and autonomous vehicles. While Hackett made it clear Ford intends to accelerate those new lines of business, he stressed that it plans to remain “in the car business, moving goods and people around. Some (concerns) about us not being in the car business (going forward) is gone.”

(For more on Hackett’s strategy, Click Here.)

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