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New Senior Personnel Departures at Ford Comes at Awkward Time

Key players in smart mobility push leave company even as Ford ramps up autonomous, electrification programs.

by on Mar.22, 2018

Musa Tariq, Ford's chief brand officer was hired away from Apple just 14 months ago.

Ford Motor Co. has been hit with another round of senior level departures, a development that not only continues the turmoil touched off by the ouster of CEO CEO Mark Fields last May but threatens to shake up the carmaker’s push into advanced mobility services.

Musa Tariq, the chief brand officer Ford lured away from Apple just 14 months ago, will be leaving the company, Ford has confirmed. And he’s not alone. Raj Rao, the CEO of Ford Smart Mobility, will also depart the automaker on May 1st.

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“Musa is a proven leader of brand transformation, having led similar work at some of the world’s most admired brands before coming to Ford, and he is a leader known for creativity and social media expertise,” said Ford CEO Jim Hackett. “Over the last year, he has been helping to drive the same transformation at Ford.”

(Ford reveals tidal wave of new products coming in 2020. Click Here for the story.)

The departures of Tariq and Rao come at a particularly awkward time – and are complicated by the loss of Laura Merling, who was recruited in October 2016 as vice president of autonomous vehicle solutions for Ford Smart Mobility. She left the automaker in January, just as it was amping up its self-driving car program.

Laura Merling, who headed autonomous vehicle operations, left Ford in January.

Under Fields, Ford began making a well-funded push into alternative mobility efforts, ranging from in-car technologies like the Sync infotainment system to autonomous vehicles. It has been expanding the Chariot shuttle service which recently entered the U.K. market, and it plans to start producing its first fully driverless vehicles early in the coming decade.

If anything, such programs are gaining even more traction since Hackett, the former Steelcase chairman, replaced Fields in spring 2017. In his previous role as a Ford board member, Hackett oversaw many of the automaker’s high-tech programs.

Hackett also approved the move of Ford’s autonomous and electrification programs, collectively known as Team Edison, to a new headquarters, a refurbished facility known as “The Factory,” in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit. The first of several hundred workers being reassigned to the operation will begin moving in shortly. Meanwhile, Ford is also reported to be looking to purchase and renovate the long-abandoned Michigan Central Station a few blocks away from The Factory. Insiders suggest it would also be used for some of the company’s mobility programs.

(Ford looking to buy Detroit’s old train station. Click Here to learn why.)

Tariq, Rao and Merling were all key players in the push to go high-tech – and to burnish Ford’s brand as more than just a metal-bender. Fields frequently declared his intention to transform Ford from “a car company to a mobility services provider.”

Ford is moving its autonomous vehicle and EV business and strategy teams to "The Factory" in Detroit's Historic Corktown neighborhood.

For his part, Rao was charged with developing Ford’s mobility services and was hired by Hackett in October 2016 before he became CEO. He previously served in Silicon Valley as head of digital business model innovation for 3M.

Another mover-and-shaker in Ford’s transformation was less ceremoniously ousted last month, Raj Nair being pushed out after acknowledging he had engaged in “inappropriate behavior.” Nair spent several years running product development for Ford, a role that included the expansion of the company’s electrified vehicle efforts. He was reassigned to run North American operations last spring as part of the broader management shake-up triggered by the firing of CEO Fields.

(What’s going on at “The Factory”? Click Here for more on Ford’s new project.)

Since then, Ford has lost a number of other top managers, including Jason Luo, the head of its Chinese operations. Luo left for ostensibly “personal reasons,” but his departure coincided with a slowdown in Ford’s sales in the critical Chinese market.

Several senior company officials have described a situation of uncertainty inside Ford since the management shake-up began nearly a year ago. But others say that is not necessarily surprising considering the push by Hackett and Chairman Bill Ford Jr. to reposition the carmaker by expanding into new arenas.

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One Response to “New Senior Personnel Departures at Ford Comes at Awkward Time”

  1. John says:

    Maybe someone noticed the M in FMC stands for Motor not Mobility.