Ford’s new CEO, Jim Farley, isn’t just a numbers cruncher, he’s also a wrencher
Ford Motor Company has announced that Jim Farley will succeed Jim Hackett as the CEO of the company beginning October 1. Who is Jim Farley? AutomotiveMap takes a closer look at the man and his rise to the top of one of the most heralded automakers in the world.
James D. “Jim" Farley Jr.'s history with Ford and the auto industry started long before he joined the company in 2007. The Argentina-born Farley's grandfather Emmet E. Tracy, was a worker at Ford in the company's early days, working at the company's Rouge River Plant beginning in 1914 when he was just 13 years old. Farley credits his grandfather for spurring his love of automobiles.
Outgoing CEO Jim Hackett and incoming CEO Jim Farley chart in front of an image of the employee card of Farley's grandfather, Emmet Tracy, an early Ford employee.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company
When he was 10 years old, Farley had a paper route in Connecticut that included a local Ferrari distributorship. He says that he would spend hours there chatting up the Italian mechanics.
Tracy would eventually leave the Ford plant to become a Ford dealer and own a Ford supplier plant. Farley worked at that plant one summer when he was 15. The summer before that, he says he spend working at a shop rebuilding car engines. He would eventually buy a '66 Ford Mustang with a blown engine, restoring it for himself, complete with a 289 V8.
Farley is a graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He earned a bachelor's degree In economics and computer science. Farley got his MBA from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He put himself through school by working at a Santa Monica vehicle-restoration shop that was run by former Formula One champion Phil Hill - Hill & Vaughn on Second Street.
Ford (and Farley) celebrated the production of the 10 millionth Mustang at its Dearborn headquarters and its Flat Rock Assembly Plant, including flyovers from three WWII-era P-51 Mustang fighter planes and Mustangs produced for more than five decades parading from Dearborn to Flat Rock.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company
The Toyota years
He started his automaker career at Toyota, a move that he says some of his family members resented. However, it was Farley's grandfather who encouraged him saying. Farley told it to Automotive News like this: “He said, 'You should go to Toyota. It's the best car company for now. You can come back to Detroit.'"
And so he did. Farley joined Toyota in 1990 as part of the company's strategic planning department. He moved through marketing and product positions in the U.S. and Europe eventually serving as the man responsible for the successful launch and rollout of the Scion brand.
He went on to hold roles including group vice president of Toyota Division marketing and was responsible for all Toyota Division market planning, advertising, merchandising, sales promotion, incentives and internet activities. He also was the group vice president and general manager of Lexus, responsible for all sales, marketing and customer satisfaction activities.
Jim Farley, working in his then-role as Scion vice president, poses with the new tC Sports Coupe at the North American International Auto Show January 5, 2004 in Detroit, Michigan.Photo by Getty Images
Farley did make it back to Detroit during those days, every January as the North American International Auto Show kicked off. It was during that annual pilgrimage that Farley would visit his grandparents' graves. “"I wipe off the snow, if it's snowing, and I talk about my life," Farley said, before pausing and turning his head to the side. "I'm going to get really emotional — son of a b----, I'm not supposed to do that as an executive — anyway, it's the real deal for me. It's not about money," Automotive News reported in 2007.
The switch to Ford
Farley and his wife Lia are the parents of three children. The couple adopted a baby girl in 2007 before Lia gave birth to their son. When he took his first job with Ford as marketing chief in 2007, it was on the heels of a difficult time for the family that had seen his wife spend the last three months of her pregnancy in the hospital as Farley, with the help of neighbors, took care of their daughter and finalized his deal with Ford, Automotive News reported at the time.
While Farley got up and running at Ford, he would travel back home to California on the weekends to be with his family before finally settling them all in Michigan once his daughter's adoption was finalized. Even in 2007, his commitment to Ford was strong, saying at the time, "I'm going to be there forever. I didn't trade in my life in Santa Monica to move around every two years. I'm a car guy. There's only two car companies I really like, and I'm on the second one."
Jim Farley, serving in his then-role as Ford executive vice president of Global Marketing, Sales and Service and Lincoln, discusses the consumer trends and demographic shifts that are reshaping the U.S. auto industry at the 2013 New York International Auto Show.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company
Big moves at Ford
After two years on the job at Ford, Farley was appointed group vice president, global marketing and Canada, Mexico and South America. He had added responsibility for Ford's operations in Canada, Mexico and South America in September 2009.
In August 2010 when Farley was appointed to lead global marketing sales and service, it marked the first time Ford had a single global leader for Marketing, Sales & Service. He had the added role of he senior global leader for Lincoln from December 2012 to August 2014. It was during his time as executive vice president of Global Marketing, Sales & Service at Lincoln where the brand began its turnaround, setting the course for the company to decliner the types of vehicles it is offering today. He also lead Lincoln's introduction to China.
During the New York International Auto Show in 2018, Jim Farley speaks in front of the just-revealed Lincoln Avaitor.Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company
From 2015 to 2017, Farley served as executive vice president and president, Ford Europe, Middle East and Africa. His tenure included milestones of record profitability, record margins, and increased sales.
In use 2017 he was named Executive Vice President and president, Global Markets, for Ford Motor Company. Company CEO Jim Hackett tapped Farley to be the president of New Businesses, Technology and Strategy in April 2019. In that role, he was tasked with helping the company determine how to capitalize on powerful forces reshaping the industry – such as software platforms, connectivity, AI, automation and new forms of propulsion.
Jim Farley, then-Group Vice President, Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford Motor Company with Action sports superstar, Ken Block after he drove his Gymkhana Ford Fiesta at Universal Studios on the eve of the Los Angeles Auto Show.Photo by Sam VarnHagen, courtesy of Ford Motor Company
In February of this year, Farley was named chief operating officer of Ford Motor Company, taking over for Joe Hinrichs and solidifying his position as the next CEO of the company. In a press conference on August 3, 2020, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said that the board talked about looking at external candidates for CEO, but they never actually did because Farley was the obvious choice.
What type of person is Farley? A story in the Detroit Free Press earlier this year said this of him:
“Jim Farley is the guy who prefers to be dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, spending time in a garage wrenching on classic Mustangs and vintage motorcycles. He respects men and women who have oil-stained clothes, busted knuckles and grease under their nails. He appreciates people who do engine and body work themselves.“
He's not a Man who spends his time chatting with old pals at the country club over a game of golf. To achieve relaxation, he races his 1965 Ford GT40 around tracks far and near.