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Ford’s New CEO Offers An Old-Fashioned Strategic Plan

October 4, 2017, 1:24 PM UTC

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New Ford CEO Jim Hackett unveiled his first detailed plan for the future of the vehicle maker Tuesday. He talked less about design thinking, the subject of my recent profile about him, and more about new priorities, including electric and autonomous vehicles as well as SUVs and trucks.

Design thinking is a product-management philosophy that its proponents refer to as human-centered, and it is particularly popular in Silicon Valley. Hackett’s public plans, on the other hand, reflect good old-fashioned strategic planning and an acknowledgment that Ford’s market is shifting. He said the company needs to de-emphasize increasingly less popular passenger cars, especially the kind that burn gasoline, and focus more on electric vehicles and wildly popular vehicles that hold stuff in addition to people.

Consistent with the themes Hackett has pursued in his short tenure at Ford (F), including his pre-CEO stint running the company’s “smart mobility” (aka alternative revenue source) unit, Hackett emphasized so-called connected cars. Should Ford succeed in equipping all its cars with information that gets communicated back to its servers, it will become a “big data” company, a beyond-vehicles opportunity that is as promising as it is murky.

Incidentally, if you read one article about the future of the global automotive industry, make it The Wall Street Journal’s compelling narrative about China’s efforts to create an electric car market by fiat. (I mean that in the sense of official order, not the Italian carmaker; Also, if you read yesterday’s column you’ll understand why I link unapologetically to articles that require subscriptions.) China’s mandate might end up as one of the greatest “student body left” commercial and industrial calls of all time. (For the uninformed, I apologize for mixing football and policy metaphors.) It’s yet another example of the grand experiment happening before our eyes in the world’s second largest economy.


Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel from 2005 to 2013, died Tuesday. He was the first and only non-engineer to lead the company, a fact reflected in the endearing statement from current Intel (INTC) CEO Brian Krzanich: “He was the relentless voice of the customer in a sea of engineers, and he taught us that we only win when we put the customer first.”

I profiled Otellini when he first became CEO. A native San Franciscan, he was a relatively guarded and quiet business executive, certainly compared to his larger-than-life mentor, Andy Grove. As his tenure drew to a close he candidly acknowledged that Intel had missed a critical shift to smartphones. He was 66 and had kept a low profile since retiring from Intel.