Newly-named Ford CEO worries about Amazon and other tech giants

Jim Farley (Photo via Ford)

Ford Motor Company is getting a new CEO. And rather than GM, he’s got tech giant in his sights.

“We know our competition today is Amazon, Baidu, Tesla, Apple, Toyota, and others,” said Jim Farley, who’ll take over from outgoing CEO Jim Hackett in October. “They’re well-financed and voracious companies.”

Farley’s comment speaks to how much the power structure in Detroit has changed in recent years as the one-time automotive innovators now face growing threats from tech giants.

On the surface, Amazon — whose $1.5 trillion market value dwarfs Ford’s $26 billion value — may not appear to be a direct rival to the car manufacturers.

But Amazon is encroaching on the turf, or shall we say the roadway. It is among the biggest backers of electric truck maker Rivian, which raised $1.3 billion late last year. Amazon also announced an order for 100,000 of Rivian’s electric vehicles, which CNBC reported was the largest order ever of electric vehicles. (Ford also is a backer of Rivian).

In June, Amazon purchased Silicon Valley electric robotaxi company Zoox for about $1 billion, signaling again its intentions in the automotive space.

Last year, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reportedly expressed his enthusiasm for the auto industry at an all-hands meeting.

“It’s going to be something very interesting to watch and participate in, and I’m very excited about that whole industry,” Bezos reportedly said.

Farley has some geeky roots himself, and NBC News — in a compelling profile piece today — calls him a “classic gearhead.”

Born in 1962, he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and computer science from Georgetown University. He’s risen through the ranks at Ford, and currently serves as chief operating officer. Prior to that role, he served as president of New Businesses, Technology and Strategy where he helped shape Ford’s expansion into connected vehicles. He also has experience leading the company’s smart mobility and autonomous vehicles teams. He was originally recruited to Ford from Toyata by Alan Mulally, the former CEO of Ford who previously led Boeing’s commercial airplanes group.

In an investor call today, Chairman Bill Ford said that Farley has “great instincts for the future and the new technologies that are changing our industry.”

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