“Jimmy Car Car” is taking his show on the road. Or rather, the man who still answers to that childhood nickname — Ford CEO Jim Farley — is now doing a show about the road.
Farley, 59, has taken on podcast hosting in addition to his role leading America’s second-biggest auto manufacturer. His weekly show “Drive” debuts May 25 on Spotify.
Ford Motor Co.’s CEO has interviewed celebs (podcaster Dax Shepard and late-night host Jimmy Kimmel), a fellow chief executive (Harley-Davidson’s Jochen Zeitz), race-car drivers (actress Emelia Hartford) and royals (the Duke of Richmond) for the show, as well as one GOAT (quarterback Tom Brady). In seven snappy 20- to 25-minute episodes, Farley will delve deep into what drives his guests.
This all might sound like a marketing ploy by Ford, but the automaker says it isn’t contributing a penny to production. Farley did interviews in his spare time on Saturdays from a conference room just outside his office atop the company’s world headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. Spotify is footing the bill for putting the show together, and it’s sponsored by customer-relationship software giant Salesforce.
Farley’s podcasting premiere is part of a larger trend spurred by the ultimate celebrity CEO of the day, Elon Musk. Auto executives are stepping further into the spotlight to build and burnish their personal brand, and ideally boost their company’s share price.
Plenty of transformative figures have transcended the grease and gears of the car business to become folk heroes outside Detroit (think Lee Iacocca or John DeLorean), but Musk has managed to translate his star power into stock valuation like never before. Volkswagen Group boss Herbert Diess has emulated the Tesla CEO to a degree, becoming more active on social media to get the message out about the German manufacturer’s electric vehicles.
In an interview, Farley said his new side hustle took some convincing. He initially turned down Spotify when they approached him a year ago in search of a business podcast.
“I told them I love cars, and I’d love to talk to people about cars. And I don’t want this to be work,” Farley said Wednesday. “So we kind of co-created this idea with Spotify.”
Farley’s other weekend hobby is tearing down race tracks at 200 miles per hour in his vintage Ford GT40, Cobra and Lola 298. He’s raced at Le Mans in France and Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Swapping stories about first cars and overcoming setbacks with an eclectic group of guests has been a different kind of thrill.
“It totally recharged my batteries and rejuvenated my love of what our industry is about,” Farley said.
And though he’s already oversubscribed trying to transform a 118-year-old automaker into an EV powerhouse, Farley’s monthly recording sessions gave him a new perspective.
“There’s a lot I learned personally as a leader,” he said. “I never did it for that reason, but you know, I need to get out of Detroit.”
Farley first connected with the seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady through a serendipitous celebrity golf tournament pairing. The two bonded over Brady’s love for the hot-rod Ford F-150 Raptor pickup, and the CEO helped the football legend get his hands on what has become his daily driver at home in Montana.
While Brady arguably boasts the most star power among Farley’s guests, his interview with a British aristocrat bestows a regal touch. Charles Gordon-Lennox, the 11th Duke of Richmond, is the founder of the Goodwood Festival of Speed, an annual auto extravaganza in West Sussex, England.
“Would you like me to call you the Duke of Richmond, or Charles? I don’t know how to do this,” Farley asks before nervously laughing during Drive’s two-minute trailer. The royal responds: “Charles is probably a bit easier.”
As Farley’s late cousin, the comedian Chris Farley, famously said: “Well, la-di-frickin’-da!”