Former Steelcase CEO and U-M Athletic Director to Lead Ford’s New Smart Mobility Subsidiary

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Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co. today announced the creation of Ford Smart Mobility, a subsidiary designed to build, grow, and invest in emerging mobility services. Jim Hackett, former Steelcase vice chairman and CEO and interim athletic director at the University of Michigan, is leaving his position on Ford’s board of directors to serve as chairman of the new subsidiary.

“Our plan is to quickly become part of the growing transportation services market, which already accounts for $5.4 trillion in annual revenue,” says Mark Fields, president and CEO of Ford. “Jim Hackett is the right visionary leader — with extensive experience in business development and design — to take us into the mobility services business in the future.”

As a consumer-focused visionary in the office furniture industry, Hackett is credited with guiding Steelcase to becoming a global leader. During his 30 years there, he helped transform the office furniture company from a traditional manufacturer to an industry innovator. Having spent his career focused on the evolving needs of consumers, Hackett is credited with predicting the office landscape would shift away from cubicles to an open space environment, giving employees the flexibility to work where they want.

Hackett serves on the corporate boards of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance in Milwaukee and Fifth Third Bancorp in Cincinnati. In addition, he is a board member of the National Center for Arts and Technology at the University of Michigan. He also is a member of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy Committee and the Leadership Council U-M Life Science Institute, both at the University of Michigan. He is a past president of the Institute of Design Board of Overseers at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Hackett was interim director of athletics at the University of Michigan from October 2014 to March 2016 where he led the search for a permanent athletic director appointed in January. As an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, he played center on the football team. He graduated in 1977 from U-M. 

“Transportation in the world today is on the cusp of a major revolution, and Ford plans to lead the way by changing the way the world moves through Ford Smart Mobility,” Hackett says.

Ford Smart Mobility will work with the automaker’s existing product development, research, advanced engineering, marketing, and data analytics teams, which will remain unchanged. Ford Smart Mobility will design and build mobility services on its own, and collaborate with start-ups and tech companies.

“Ensuring the freedom of mobility requires us to continually look beyond the needs of today and interpret what mobility will mean to future generations,” says Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford. “This new subsidiary will enable us to develop mobility solutions to address the rapidly changing transportation challenges of an increasingly crowded world.”​

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