Who is Jim Hackett, CEO of Ford?

Nathan Bomey
Jim Hackett, Ford
Ford Motor Company | AP

Here's what you need to know about Jim Hackett, 62, who is succeeding Mark Fields as CEO of Ford Motor after leading the company's Smart Mobility division focused on new innovations in transportation.

He knows what it's like to lead a company that's more than 100 years old.

Hackett served as CEO of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based furniture company Steelcase for nearly two decades before relinquishing the post in early 2014.

He was widely credited with overhauling the company's corporate culture, helping clients redesign their workspaces and taking the then-innovative approach of deemphasizing cubicles in favor of open work environments.

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He made considerable cuts at Steelcase, but the moves helped place the company on a sustainable path. To ease the jolt, he met with laid-off employees to provide networking help, according to the Grand Rapids Press.

He views change as critical to a company's survival.

That could be central to his tenure at Ford, where his focus so far has been trained on autonomous vehicle investments and new business opportunities, such as a ride-sharing venture.

Being willing to leave behind the traditional corporate cubicle was key to Steelcase's turnaround.

"It's a perversity that when you see something changing you think it's just a flash or a temporary moment," he said in a 2008 interview, according to the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International. "The system that's most dominant believes its virtues will keep it from ever being overtaken."

He's not opposed to giving fans what they want.

During a 16-month stretch as interim athletics director at his alma mater, the University of Michigan, his crowning achievement was hiring former Wolverine quarterback Jim Harbaugh as the Michigan football team's head coach.

Fans had been clamoring for Harbaugh, who quickly reestablished Michigan as one of the best football programs in the country.

His upbringing was central to his optimistic Midwestern persona.

"I am the product of wonderful parents who themselves managed through difficult economic times in their lives," Hackett told Steelcase analysts and investors in 2013.

"And what I learned from them was you can always really be cynical and downtrodden, but it takes leadership with inspiration and hope to imagine the brighter side of things. And I believe that I've always seen the promise of our company."

He's close to Bill Ford Jr.

The automaker's executive chairman and great-grandson of founder Henry Ford is a big fan of Hackett.

At a media event in January, they were virtually inseparable. Ford Jr. repeatedly praised the former furniture executive for his outside-the-box thinking and leadership.