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The Autoweek Dispatch: Ford Has a New CEO and We Have a New Podcast!

Wes Raynal
Photo credit: Autoweek
Photo credit: Autoweek

From Autoweek

Ford has struggled since Alan Mulally left. Now one of his hand-picked execs is in charge. The next few months and years are going to be fun to watch. Here’s what’s happening in the car world:

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“I have absolutely no interest in chasing records for top speed or acceleration. Our focus is instead on delivering the purest, most rewarding driving experience of any supercar ever built—but, rest assured, it will be quick.”

Gordon Murray on the new T.50, his upcoming $3.09 million supercar.

FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK

Jim Farley vintage-races a Cobra and a GT40. He has done so at Spa and Le Mans. He has a Lancia B20. He spends any free time he might get hanging out at concours and car shows. He loves going to vintage-hydroplane races. Now he’s running Ford.

For us car enthusiasts this can only be a good thing, right?

We’ll find out: You probably caught Ford’s announcement earlier this week that CEO Jim Hackett is stepping down and Farley is replacing him. The automaker says Hackett and Farley are working together the next two months “to ensure a smooth transition.” Ford also said Hackett stays on in an advisory role through next March.

Hackett came to Ford from the furniture industry and made a few decisions some found controversial such as ditching almost all of Ford’s passenger cars in favor of trucks and SUVs.

The Wall Street Journal wrote that Hackett is “more than three years into a turnaround effort that has yet to lift profits or the automaker’s depressed share price.” Indeed Ford’s operating profit has fallen three years in a row, including a 9% drop in 2019, the year Hackett thought profits would start rising. Further, Ford shares have fallen 40% under Hackett, who points out that the Bronco and Mustang Mach-E show that things are starting to turn around.

Turning it around is now Farley’s job and a Ford source told us he thinks Farley brings a greater sense of urgency to the job. Let’s remember who brought him to Ford from Toyota in 2007, none other than Alan Mulally. In his years at the helm Mulally improved profitability and, frankly, Ford has struggled since he left in 2014. At the time he called Farley “one of the most talented leaders in the industry.”

Farley, whose grandfather worked for Ford in the early 1900s, has held various Ford jobs including global sales and marketing boss and COO. He also ran Lincoln for a bit.

“He’s just a great old hot-rodder,” original hot rod hero Alex Xydias told Autoweek. So-Cal Speed Shop founder Xydias met Farley years ago at the Autoweek dinner at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. “From the way Edsel (Ford II) was talking about Farley at the dinner you could tell he was on his way up the chain.

“He’s a helluva businessman, no doubt,” he told us.

“If I had to count on one hand the brightest people I’ve ever worked with, those who just were really unique people who knew what was going on, that would be Jim Lentz and Jim Farley,” former Lexus boss Bryan Bergsteinsson told Autoweek. “Different people but, but really bright people. Farley was always looking for a new challenge. Never, never was satisfied, didn’t want to do the same thing over and over again,” he told us. “The best and brightest people reframe their jobs all the time.”

Farley certainly has new challenges ahead! Now Ford has a real car guy in charge of Ford. We'll have more next week.

CAR NEWS AND NOTES

Photo credit: Autoweek
Photo credit: Autoweek

This week we introduce Quick Spin, our new podcast that takes you into the car with us as we deliver honest reviews of all the hot new rides. Quick Spin is a weekly, short-form show (each episode clocks in around 15 minutes) putting you in the passenger seat during the review process while we walk you through our experiences with the car. Then we’ll hop into the studio to elaborate on the experiences. We’ll drive everything from pedestrian commuters to world-beating supercars, so check it out! Quick Spin is available on all the major podcast platforms such as Apple Podcast, Spotify and Stitcher. Check out the first three episodes here and listen for new episodes every Wednesday!

SEMA finally did what seemed inevitable and canceled this year’s show. There is some discussion about having a virtual show similar to what CES has announced it is planning in January at the same Las Vegas Convention Center location, but so far no concrete plans have been released. The cancellation is unprecedented in the show’s 50-plus-year history.

Nobody except McLaren F1 creator Gordon Murray could launch a new, improved supercar. Frankly had anyone else tried to make such a car they’d have been roundly mocked, and rightly so. The original still tops the list of superlative supercars while values have risen to unobtainium levels. The new car is called T.50, is going to cost $3.09 million and there are only 100 being built. As usual with Murray, the T.50’s point isn’t necessarily to blow away all comers, but to be the most perfectly balanced, most enjoyably driven supercar ever.

RACING LINES

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: Hélio Castroneves is looking for work. He’ll still pilot the No. 3 for the 20th straight year at the Aug. 23 Greatest Spectacle in Racing. But he’s looking for a new ride because Team Penske is shelving its IMSA DPi program after the season due to Acura announcing last month it’s ending its Prototype program after this year. The 45-year-old has raced with Roger Penske since the 2000 CART season.

That Indy 500, the 104th, is going to run without fans in the stands. The word comes two weeks after the Speedway reduced attendance to 25% due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns. The event was of course postponed from its traditional Month of May date and underwent attendance reductions to 50% before moving to 25%.

WHAT WE’RE DRIVING

Robin Warner is spending time in the the 2020 Toyota Camry TRD and is digging the naturally aspirated and direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 and its 301 hp. He says the car is “legitimately quick” and is “fun to drive.” He also says the engine has a nice little snarl to it. And it’s a Camry! I’m as shocked as anyone.

MOSTLY ODDS, SOME ENDS

SEMA is off and the Indy 500 is being run without spectators, but the four-day Lime Rock Historic Festival is still on for Labor Day weekend, with a weekend’s worth of events planned. For years the historic track, tucked away in Connecticut’s northwest quadrant, has featured several days of vintage racing on Friday, Saturday and Monday, while Sunday was set aside for hundreds of vintage cars lined up around the track. That’s the plan again this year, though we recommend you keep an eye on the Lime Rock website for pandemic-related regional public safety information before making the trip.

LISTEN UP

On this episode of the Autoweek Podcast, No. 121, Wes Raynal and Wesley Wren introduce Quick Spin: the second podcast to join The Autoweek Podcast Network. After a quick explanation of the new show, Raynal spearheads a discussion about the latest from supercar-maker Gordon Murray. Dubbed the T.50, this new supercar has some elements of the McLaren F1 but updated for a new generation. Raynal also talks about how important the McLaren F1 was in its time. After the jump, Mike Pryson and Robin Warner join Wren to discuss the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The guys talk about Nico Hulkenberg’s bad luck and Lewis Hamilton’s incredible win. For those who didn’t watch, Hamilton finished the race after a tire failure on his final lap. Tune in here, on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever podcasts are played.

WHAT’S AHEAD

As always we’re on the case this weekend, monitoring and reporting on the automakers’ and sanctioning bodies’ latest happenings. We’ll continually update the site of course—you’ll know what’s happening when we do. Check back often!

Thanks for reading Autoweek and please stay safe.