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Ford needs to ‘keep moving’ into the digital space after Jim Hackett steps down: Car Expert

Ford CEO Jim Hackett is stepping down as CEO and will be replaced by COO Jim Farley. Rebeccadrives.com Founder Rebecca Lindland joins Yahoo Finance’s On The Move panel to weigh in on the future of the automaker.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: The change is coming at the top of Ford Motor Company. Jim Hackett is going to be stepping down as of October 1. Jim Farley, who basically has been groomed as the next CEO, is going to be taking over. He's the chief operating officer currently. Those shares are trading higher by about 1%.

Rebecca Lindland is joining us now. She is Rebeccadrives.com founder, longtime auto analyst. So Rebecca, this does seem to have been sort of telegraphed here. And Farley has led a lot of different initiatives at the company.

It seems like, I mean, that they've been preparing them for this. Is he the right guy to run the company at this stage?

REBECCA LINDLAND: You know, Julie, I think that he is. I like Jim Farley for a lot of reasons. He's been there for about 13 years. He came from Toyota, which, of course, is an excellent background, to have that transition from a non-domestic to a domestic brand.

And I think that he's got a lot of friends within the company, which is very important at a company like Ford, which is a legacy company, but is facing a tremendous amount of competition from new companies, like Apple and Google and Waymo.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Hey, Rebecca, my auto lover from another mother. It's great to see you.

REBECCA LINDLAND: Likewise, Adam.

ADAM SHAPIRO: But I gotta ask you-- this is the fourth-largest auto company on the planet. Hackett was there when they made deals with VW and Rivian for some of the future technology. So is Farley a part of those deals? Was he instrumental in those deals? And can he take them to the next level?

REBECCA LINDLAND: I think that he was certainly part of those conversations. And I think that Jim Farley understands that Ford needs to move into this digital space. And really, given the pandemic and given the potential changes in where we work, how we use our vehicles could change dramatically as well. That, in fact, is coinciding with the continuing change in demographics in the marketplace as well.

So I think that Jim Farley appreciates that. I think he's open to new acquisitions, to new technologies, and is somebody, again, who looks at the-- can operate within the culture of Ford, which does have a heavy legacy.

ADAM SHAPIRO: If we were talking a year ago, it would have been how millennials don't want to have cars. Now we're in a pandemic and you can't get a car. Everyone wants their own car to self-isolate.

In the future, though, can Ford continue-- still fourth largest on the planet-- can they go it alone? Or do they need to merge with somebody? Do they need to take on and become even bigger?

REBECCA LINDLAND: Well, I think that we're, again, going to continue to see some strange bedfellows. Volkswagen and Ford both have significant investments in companies like Argo AI, which is doing a lot of autonomous driving, a lot of space in making vehicles autonomous. So I think that we're going to continue to see those types of collaborations.

The investments that are required in the mobility space are so enormous right now. It's really, really difficult to go it alone. So I think that you have to have that base of trust in being able to collaborate with, at times, fierce competitors, just to be able to move in the way that consumers and technology are demanding mobility move.

DAN ROBERTS: Rebecca, Dan Roberts here. Since we are talking Ford, I wanted to ask you, just a few weeks ago, Ford unveiled the 2021 Bronco. I thought it made quite a splash.

And then just anecdotally, personally, I'm very interested in it. I think it looks great. I saw some people teasing, saying oh, the new Bronco is basically a Jeep. But as a Jeep driver myself, I think it looks a lot better than either of the Jeeps I've driven.

What have you seen in terms of the response there? And then I saw some rumors-- obviously, at this reveal, there wasn't an electric one-- but I saw rumors that soon enough, there might also be an electric Bronco.

REBECCA LINDLAND: Yes, so the Bronco-- I was really pleased, because when it was unveiled, I thought, oh, that's what it's supposed to look like, which has not always been the case with certain vehicles. So I think that they did a nice job of blending the history of the Bronco with the ability to move it forward from a design standpoint. One of the things that Ford did under Hackett was they really moved into that electric vehicle space with cars like the Mustang Mach-E, which is, I think, a fantastic idea-- again, taking a legacy label and putting a modern twist on it.

So I think that the most difficult part of the electric vehicle space is just convincing consumers that an electric vehicle is a better solution than an internal combustion engine. And I don't think that we are at that place yet. So that's one of the biggest challenges that Ford faces, as well as the entire industry.

MELODY HAHM: I mean, just thinking about where we are as an industry, Mary Barra really made some waves, of course, several years ago, becoming the CEO of GM. I love that you're a female and you're talking about cars, showing that it can be democratized across all genders. When you think about even Ford's transition, when do you anticipate that there would be, perhaps, more females in the auto space? We know Elon Musk really doubles down on his bro sort of persona.

Do you anticipate it'll be in a decade or so where it could be normalized, perhaps, that there would be more Mary Barras of the worlds in the auto space?

REBECCA LINDLAND: Oh my gosh, Melody, I hope it doesn't take a decade, for God's sakes. I mean, what's amazing to me is how many of my female colleagues-- we-- not only do we love cars, but we love consumers. And we love-- we love design.

I was just having a an Instagram DM last night with one of the chief designers, coincidentally, at Jeep, and talking about landscaping, talking about furniture design. There's so much more to the automotive space than grease. And I just wish people would understand that. Keeping in mind, I have done my own brake job, so I am the first one to get to get greasy and dirty underneath a car.

But there's such potential. When you're designing a car, you have a budget in the billions. Think about that. And this product is going to be on the street for 20 years.

You have opened up a can of worms for me, so don't even get me started.

MELODY HAHM: I'm seeing that design, looking at your beautiful backdrop. We [INAUDIBLE].

REBECCA LINDLAND: So I have this crazy, mid-century modern house. And people think the backdrop is fake. But that's actually a rock. I can touch it and feel it. And sometimes I just sit on it.

I actually bought the house from a female architect. She went to the-- to Cornell Architect School in the '50s. So I'm living the legacy.

JULIE HYMAN: Amazing. Female designers rock, clearly.

REBECCA LINDLAND: Absolutely.

JULIE HYMAN: Rebecca Lindland of Rebeccadrives.com, thank you so much. It is always a pleasure to see you.

REBECCA LINDLAND: Thank you so much. Likewise. And stay safe in the storm.

JULIE HYMAN: Thank you. Thank you. You as well.