Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company's CEO, has chosen to retire, the company said in a statement. According to reports from Forbes and other outlets, though, the board voted him out. Ford did not immediately return a request for clarification.
Fields' replacement will be James Hackett. Hackett is currently the head of Ford's Smart Mobility, which handles the automaker's investments in new mobility ventures and autonomous cars. Hackett was the CEO of Steelcase, an office furniture manufacturer, prior to taking a spot on Ford's board in 2013.
Fields was named CEO of Ford in 2014. Prior to that, he spent time with the automaker as its chief operating officer, as well as stints leading Ford's Americas division and Ford's Premier Automotive Group, which at the time included Aston Martin, Land Rover, Jaguar and Volvo. He'd been with the company since 1989.
It's a delicate time for Ford. The company has made strong investments in mobility services and electrification, two avenues that yet to pay off. With electrification, autonomy and other innovations still years from being truly mainstream, Ford has to strike a balance between building the cars of today and preparing for tomorrow. Fields was a strong proponent of these investments, which may have helped contribute to his supposed ouster.
Ford's sales numbers have been good, averaging some 2 to 2.5 million US sales per year over the last few years, only dropping under 2 million during the most recent recession. But it's believed that the US auto market is about to slow down, and in anticipation of that, reports circulated that Ford would be cutting a number of salaried employees both in the US and abroad.