Autos

Ford New CEO's Stock Problem

The new CEO of the Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F), Jim Farley, joins a line of leaders Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Jr. has shuffled in and out of the job since the start of 1999. The list totals seven if Ford’s own time in the job gets included.

The tenure of people on the CEO list is even shorter when Alan Mulally, the only success among them, is backed out. He ran the company from September 5, 2006, to July 1, 2014. If he is not included, CEOs under Bill Ford last about two years each.

Farley’s plan sounds almost the same as his predecessors. He wants better profits, a more efficient process to develop and produce cars, and more recently, a foothold in autonomous and electric vehicles. His No.1 job, the company said was to “move with urgency to turn around its automotive operations – improving quality, reducing costs and accelerating the restructuring of underperforming businesses.” Against this backdrop, Farley’s primary enemy is the stock price, which is off 26% this year.

Ford has not been able to master what is nearly the same plan each CEO announces. The EV and autonomous car plans are more recently added. That has not changed Ford’s struggles to edge into areas dominated by manufacturers in Japan and Germany. Ford’s Lincoln luxury brand has struggled in the U.S. for years. Additionally, Ford’s track record in the world’s largest car market–China–is dismal. Farley may not be able to wrestle himself out of those troubles, even if he is given years.

Ford has not made a single announcement that would argue it is in the EV or autonomous car vanguards. Volkswagen Group claims it has the lead in the EV sector, at least among the world’s largest manufacturers. The Germany company is investing over $35 billion into its electric car program, probably the most out of any corporation in the business. Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA) will not easily give up its spot at the top of the global EV business.

The autonomous car market leadership remains up for grabs.

The other major criticism of Farley is that he has been an executive at Ford through a long period of failure. He has held senior management jobs at Ford for more than a decade. Many management experts say that Mulally was an outsider.

If the recent past is any indication, Farley has a very short time to show that he can charge Ford’s results, and share price.