Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know about this crazy little thing we call life.
1st Gear: Mark Fields Is Going To Be Just Fine, OK?
Ford’s board of directors ousted CEO Mark Fields for a multitude of reasons, which we covered in detail this week, but I’m not here to talk about that again this morning because the guy’s going to be a-OK. Like, nearly $58 million OK.
The largest portion of the ex-CEO’s payout is in unvested stock awards, valued at $29.4 million as of Wednesday’s close, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Those will vest through 2020, with the majority tied to performance goals. Fields also is entitled to about $17.5 million in retirement benefits, plus stock options worth $8.1 million and an estimated prorated incentive bonus of about $2.1 million.
After a brief stint running the U.S. automaker, pumping airy ideas about how to shepherd it into the future, Ford’s stock plunged close to 40 percent, and while submitting yourself to the Lord and Savior of Stock Price may seem silly nowadays—just look at Tesla—investors won’t ever dig that kind of trend.
The thought of walking away with even an extra $100 to “agree” to “resign” would seem extraordinary to me. But auto CEOs make bank, so Fields has a nice little golden parachute to jump off and fly toward whatever thing he finds interesting next. Oh, right, speaking of travel, Ford agreed to let Fields have access to “reasonable” use of the automaker’s corporate aircraft until August 1. How sweet.
“I’m very thankful to Mark and he had a really terrific career here, but this is a time of unprecedented change,” Ford’s executive chairman, Bill Ford, said about Fields dismissal. Indeed, and while Ford continues to grapple with whatever “mobility” actually means, Fields can now go retire and move to Oahu.
2nd Gear: Ford Names New Head Of North America
Ford’s continuing to roll out its new regime, and on Thursday the automaker announced a slew of new moves. In particular, according to Automotive News, there’s:
Raj Nair, 52, will lead Ford North America, replacing Joe Hinrichs, who was named president of global operations earlier this week.
Steven Armstrong, 52, will lead Ford of Europe, Middle East & Africa, replacing Jim Farley, who was named president of global markets earlier this week.
Peter Fleet will lead Ford Asia Pacific.
Hau Thai-Tang will lead global product development and purchasing.
Sherif Marakby, following a stint at Uber, will return to Ford as vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification.
Among many other things, Nair was the guy who oversaw development of the new Ford GT. So that’s pretty rad.
Also, I bet Marakby is particularly happy about the move.
3rd Gear: Speaking Of Fields
If you’re still wondering about What Went Wrong with Fields, Reuters has another take on the situation this morning: Ford’s deep into a dreadful stretch of the auto industry’s long product cycles, and it doesn’t look like it’ll work its way out until 2019.
That puts Fields’ replacement, new CEO Jim Hackett, in a neat little pickle of sorts. Here’s more from Reuters:
[Hackett] now has to face up to a void of new vehicles, partly caused by former CEO Alan Mulally, who focused much of the company’s resources on an expensive 2014 redesign of Ford’s crown jewel, the F-Series pickup.
That safeguarded America’s longtime best-selling vehicle, but it prevented Ford from developing other hits. Given that it typically takes three to four years for a new or redesigned vehicle to get into production, the full effect of Mulally’s narrow focus is now being felt.
Fields could’ve moved things along sooner, as well, Reuters say. If he pushed product launches as soon as he took the reins in 2014, Ford could’ve had new toys for their showrooms as early as next fall. Fields didn’t, so Ford has to wait until 2019 for a new set of models
“There is not much Hackett can do about that,” Reuters says. “Any product moves he makes today would not likely show up in the market before 2021.”
Hey, but Hackett hired Jim Harbaugh to run the University of Michigan’s football program, which we’re told is supposed to translate into Hackett being a miracle worker of sorts. Have fun, Jim. At least you’ll be potentially compensated upward of $13.4 million while giving it a go.
4th Gear: Hawaii Sues Automakers Over Takata
Remember Takata? The supplier that produced incredibly shitty airbags that were prone to defects and ended up being linked to nearly a dozen deaths and more than a hundred injuries? Led to that recall of 42 million vehicles? The airbags that automakers knew were a disaster in the making as far back at the 1990s?
Well, the state of Hawaii says automakers should be held accountable for selling cars with dangerous airbags, and filed a suit on Wednesday against Toyota, Ford and Nissan saying as much. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser explains:
The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affair’s Office of Consumer Protection announced today it filed a lawsuit against Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. for unlawful practices in connection with marketing and sales of vehicles with air bags made by Tokyo-based Takata Corp.
“Nissan, Toyota and Ford knew, or should have known, for more than a decade … the air bags installed in their cars could explode, posing grave and sometimes fatal dangers to the cars’ occupants,” said Stephen Levins, executive director of the Office of Consumer Protection, at a press conference today.
Takata settled a criminal investigation by the U.S. justice department earlier this year for $1 billion, which, while a large figure, doesn’t mend the fact that automakers knew there were problems with the product for quite some time.
5th Gear: FCA Says Its Diesel Fix Is Solid, It Swears
FCA has a major civil suit with the federal government on its hands, for allegedly installing undisclosed “defeat devices” on just over 100,000 vehicles. The automaker denies the allegations that anything sinister was happening, but for weeks it has been dealing with numerous lawsuits over that same issue. On Wednesday, a California judge held a hearing to discuss issues pertaining to the roughly two dozen suits, and FCA reiterated its earlier statement that a simple software update can address U.S. regulators concerns. Reuters has more:
Robert Giuffra, a lawyer representing Fiat Chrysler, said at a hearing in San Francisco that regulators’ concerns could be resolved with new software without a need for any new hardware.
Giuffra said the company does not concede that the 104,000 vehicles emitted excess emissions. He said there were very complicated regulations governing whether auxiliary emissions control devices should have been disclosed to regulators.
The case is a complex one to untangle, but my colleague David Tracy did a sterling job yesterday explaining what’s what. So you should read that here, if you’re looking to brush up on why the federal government filed suit.
In the meantime, Reuters says the California judge said he wouldn’t delay any of the civil suits filed against FCA, so even if it squares away the issue with the U.S., its alleged diesel emission problem isn’t going away anytime soon.
Reverse: I Doubt You Love Your Car This Much
Neutral: Of Golden Parachutes
Does Mark Fields deserve this kind of windfall? What’s the closest financial incentive you ever received for being canned?