Ford Replaces CEO Mark Fields in Push To Transform Business

Ford is replacing CEO Mark Fields as it struggles to keep its traditional auto-manufacturing business running smoothly while remaking itself as a nimble, high-tech provider of new mobility services.

The 114-year-old automaker said Fields [pictured above] is retiring at age 56 after 28 years at the company. Fields will be replaced by Jim Hackett, who joined Ford's board in 2013. Hackett has led Ford's mobility unit since March of last year.

In three years as CEO, Fields began Ford's transition from a traditional automaker into a "mobility" company, laying out plans to build autonomous vehicles and explore new services such as ride-hailing and car-sharing. Under Fields, Ford achieved a record pretax profit of $10.8 billion in 2015 as SUV and truck sales soared in the U.S.

But there were rumblings that Fields wasn't focused enough on Ford's core business, as popular products like the Fusion sedan grew dated and Ford lagged behind rivals in bringing long-range electric cars to the market. The stock price sagged, and electric car maker Tesla Inc. even passed Ford in market value. Ford's stock price has fallen almost 40 percent since Fields became CEO in July 2014.

Hackett is the former CEO of Steelcase Inc., one of the world's largest office furniture companies. He is credited with transforming that company, in part by predicting the shift away from cubicles and into open office plans. But he first had to cut thousands of jobs and moved furniture production from the U.S. to Mexico to stem massive losses at the company.

Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford said in an interview that Hackett is the right person to lead Ford as it expands into new business areas, like making self-driving shuttles, because he's a "visionary" who knows how to remake a business. Car companies are facing increasing competition from Google, Uber...

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