Before joining FoMoCo, Mr. Hackett was the interim Athletic Director at the University of MI, and he also led the turnaround of Steelcase Inc. The appointments are effective June 1.
Hackett will have three priorities at Ford: Sharpening operational execution, modernizing Ford's present business and transforming the company for the future. The company also announced a year ago that it intends to produce fully autonomous cars with no manually operated controls at all by 2021. "And time of great change in my mind requires a transformational leader".
Hackett, a former football player at the University of MI and interim athletic director, was named chairman of the automaker's Ford Smart Mobility LLC subsidiary in 2016 to focus on emerging businesses that include ridesharing and autonomous vehicles. He is credited with transforming that company, in part by predicting the shift away from cubicles and into open office plans.
Forbes and the New York Times reported James Hackett, head of the Ford unit that works on autonomous vehicles, would take the reins.
Fields' abrupt dismissal caught almost all at Ford by surprise, but concerns about the company's direction have been brewing for some time.
The major shakeup comes as the auto industry grapples with slowing vehicle sales. General Motors' Chevrolet Bolt electric auto, with 238 miles of range, went on sale past year; Ford is working on an electric SUV with 300 miles of range, but it's not due out until 2020. It has 101,000 employees in North America and 23,000 in Asia.
He said such a "coup" by a turnaround specialist could be followed by similar moves by other large manufacturers. Shares are down 37% since Fields succeeded Alan Mulally in 2014, and down 10% so far this year.
"When they asked him to come fix the athletic department, he said, 'Sure, I'd be happy to, '" Ford said at a news conference on Monday. He also said Ford's bureaucratic culture is an issue.
Ford has shocked the auto industry by announcing its current chief executive, Mark Fields, is leaving the company.
He also said that solving corporate problems is like a Rubik's Cube "because it's not solving one side, it's solving all sides to the problem". He will speed up decision-making to make Ford more agile, he told reporters and analysts.
The shake-up also includes a promotion for Jim Farley, 54, who becomes executive vice president and president, global markets.
Marcy Klevorn will oversee Ford Smart Mobility, which was formed in 2016 to accelerate the company's plans to design, build, grow and invest in emerging mobility services, as well as Information Technology and Global Data, Insight and Analytics.
October 2014: Ford launches luxury Lincoln brand in China.