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Ford Motor shows signs of revival under Jim Farley

For years, Ford Motor has been working on a turnaround but showing little progress in the showroom or its profits.

But the outlook for the 118-year-old automaker has recently improved, and many analysts give credit to Jim Farley, who took over as chief executive last October. Ford showcased several well-received models, including a redesigned F-150 pickup truck, a Mustang electric sport utility vehicle, and a new Bronco. In the first three months of the year, the company posted a profit of $ 3.3 billion, the most it has made in a quarter since 2011.

After years of decline, Ford’s stock price has rallied, surging more than 70% this year, to around $ 15.50, its highest level since 2015. General Motors stock has risen d ‘about 50% compared to the same period.

Mr. Farley has a long association with Ford, but his path to the highest office was barely assured.

A grandson of Ford employee Mr Farley, who turns 59 on Thursday, tinkers with cars and owned a 1966 Mustang like a teenager. Early in his career he was fortunate enough to join Ford, but he took a job at Toyota Motor, where he helped create the luxury brand Lexus and became a marketing star. He joined Ford in 2007 to help its Managing Director, Alan Mulally, revive the company.

Mr Farley was running for the top job when Mr Mulally retired in 2014, but was sidelined in favor of Mark Fields, and again when Ford’s board of directors, headed by the descendant of the family William C. Ford Jr., chose Jim Hackett in 2017. Mr. Hackett retired last year.

“From a business standpoint, I feel like I’ve been prepared for this my whole life,” Mr. Farley said in an interview. But he added that many of the company’s recent successes were the result of decisions “made several years ago.”

Still, colleagues say Mr. Farley brought a sense of urgency and energy to Ford over Mr. Hackett’s more measured style.

During Mr. Hackett’s tenure as chief executive, Ford’s share price languished and Wall Street analysts complained that he had not detailed enough how he was going to turn the company around.

In May, Mr. Farley and a dozen other executives presented the company’s strategic plan to investors and analysts in a nearly four-hour presentation, an event that had been promised but never hosted under Mr. Hackett.

“I think the change in CEO meant a lot to Wall Street,” said David Whiston, Morningstar analyst. “Communication and extended approach was a big problem under the old leadership. There is a lot more confidence with Ford now that the results will be there.

Mr. Farley is clearly not shy. He’s an active presence on Twitter, where he sometimes happens Sharing memes featuring actor Chris Farley, his cousin, who died in 1997.

Ford still faces many challenges. It suffers more than other manufacturers from the global shortage of computer chips. This quarter, it expects to manufacture about half the number of vehicles it had hoped for, due to the shortage. While demand for Ford models is strong, dealerships often don’t have the vehicles that buyers want.

The company also remains behind GM and Volkswagen in China, the world’s largest new car market. Ford has also had to scale back operations in South America and Europe after losing ground to other automakers.

Like GM, Ford is aggressively moving into electric vehicles, and it’s off to a good start with the Mustang Mach E, an SUV that has taken market share from Tesla. Next year, Ford will begin selling the F-150 Lightning, an electric pickup truck. The company started taking orders for the truck three weeks ago and has already amassed 100,000. An electric version of its Explorer SUV is expected to follow, Farley said. By 2030, around 40% of the vehicles it manufactures are expected to be electric.

Ford is trying to focus on making vehicles that stand out rather than the generic sedans and compacts that American automakers have made in the recent past and have largely abandoned.

The last one arrived this week – a small van called the Maverick. It is aimed at consumers who drive cars and minivans and don’t like the bulk, height, or high prices of large pickups like the F-150 or Ram – but might be interested in a vehicle. which has more cargo space for things like bikes and hockey gear.

“This is the product for people who never thought they wanted a truck,” Mr. Farley said.

Ford, known for its muscular engines, made the base Maverick model a hybrid that travels 40 miles on a gallon of gasoline. The truck starts at $ 19,995, which is almost $ 10,000 less than the cheapest F-150. Hyundai is presenting a similar truck called the Santa Cruz this summer, but has not said how much it will cost.

Sam Abuelsamid, analyst at Guidehouse, noted that compact pickup trucks have not been very successful and most automakers have phased them out. But over the past 10 years, American tastes have turned to trucks and SUVs, so Ford might be smart to try again. “You have a lot of people who have concluded that a pickup is their lifestyle now, so this is going to be interesting to watch,” he said.

Mr Farley said he was confident the Maverick would be a success, saying he could imagine Ford producing a family of Maverick variants, including an electric model.

“The electrification of the industry is a big change, and I think it wasn’t clear until we launched Lightning and Mach E that Ford was going to be a winner in this new electric reality,” said Mr. Farley. “Now the investors are betting on Ford, and what they tell me is, ‘The strategy is attractive, go execute it, Farley.’ “

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