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In Case You Missed It: A Conversation with Jonathan Jennings

In a special convening on Jan.13, MICHauto investor CEOs had an opportunity to connect virtually with Jonathan Jennings, vice president of Global Commodity Purchasing and Supplier Technical Assistance for Ford Motor Company.

Jennings has been with Ford for more than 28 years and is a mechanical engineer by trade. He has worked in several different functions that span manufacturing, manufacturing engineering, quality, purchasing, and product engineering across the U.S. and internationally.

His latest role has proven to be uniquely challenging as he transitioned during the peak of COVID-19. Jennings says he appreciates that the situation accelerated his learning within the company, allowing him to challenge himself and his team to be more nimble and to immediately engage with the supply base. One challenge that several supplier CEOs related to is the ongoing balance between managing tactically day-to-day, while also ensuring adequate time for planning strategically for a successful future.

With Jim Farley now at the helm as CEO of Ford, there is a new energy backed company-wide on executing “The Plan.”  Jennings highlighted a few key areas that are especially critical to future growth for Ford:

  • Capitalize on strengths and build upon areas we know are strong.
  • Disrupt themselves to compete beyond automotive, in software and hardware.
  • Focus on electrification to meet compliance and, more importantly, provide the product and the services that win customers.

During the Q&A portion, several questions were brought up by supplier CEOs related to current events and impacts to production as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the supply chain and vehicle production. And while there is no crystal ball to know what 2021 will look like, there is a concerted effort to stay focused on taking action in the first half of the year, collectively with the supply base, to position for a positive second half in what is expected to be another extremely fluid year.

When asked how Ford keeps its plan front and center with employees, Jennings said that the company is laser focused. In every meeting, the question is asked if this supports the plan and propels us forward. It is this type of focus that is important for the automotive and mobility industry. Having the discipline to schedule strategic “think” time to reflect on what the company is doing strategically and competitively is another way for the team to stay on course.

Asked by Glenn Stevens Jr. which Ford vehicle Jennings is most excited about, he says the Mustang Mach-E is a very special vehicle. Driving the MACH-E, Jennings says, he can see how people do not want to go back once they have driven electrical vehicles. It is not just the incredible design and appearance of the vehicle, but the customer interface with the vehicle that really locks it in as a standout. Not surprisingly, the Ford Mustang Mach-E was announced this week as North American Utility Vehicle of the Year™.