Former Ford President joins self-driving radar startup's board
Joe Hinrichs, a former top executive at Ford Motor Co. who left the company earlier this year, is making a tentative return to the auto industry by joining the board of a startup developing technology for self-driving cars and driver-assistance features.
Hinrichs, who stepped down as Ford’s automotive president in February, is taking a seat on the four-member board at WaveSense Inc., a three-year-old company developing ground-penetrating radar to help cars navigate inclement weather and adverse road conditions.
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Born of research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, WaveSense has 13 employees and is targeting its technology for both autonomous and regular vehicles. The startup has partnerships with carmakers that it declined to name.
Hinrichs, who said he has received a number of job-related inquiries since leaving Ford, accepted WaveSense’s offer because it was a chance to work with ventures similar to Rivian Automotive Inc., an electric-truck maker whose board he joined after Ford invested $500 million last year.
“I got to be involved early with Rivian and I really enjoyed that," Hinrichs said in an interview. “I wanted to get involved with something that was early stage and WaveSense just fit the bill."
Hinrichs was forced to give up his seat on Rivian’s board after he was the odd man out in a management shakeup that came after Ford botched the launch of the Explorer SUV last year, leading to losses and Wall Street recriminations. Ford Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett elevated Jim Farley to chief operating officer, making him heir apparent, while Hinrichs retired at age 53. Hinrichs says he may join a second board later this summer, but plans to wait a year before taking another executive job.
(Also read: Hands free: Carmakers race to next level of not quite self-driving vehicles)
“I’m taking a break after 31 years," Hinrichs said. “I’ve lost 17 pounds. I’ve got myself back in really good shape and I’m just enjoying life and really decompressing and relaxing."
Hinrichs says he’s too young to actually retire, so he expects to eventually be back in an operational role somewhere. And he says he bears no bitterness over his departure from Ford.
“Life’s too short to let things get in the way of you enjoying it," Hinrichs said. “I’m too young to stay not working forever, but I’m also old enough now to have perspective on life. I have options and I get to take a break and be a little choosy about what I do next. So I just keep it all in balance. The glass is always half full or better with me."