Ford’s Mark Fields
Carlos Osorio  /  AP file
Mark Fields, the head of Ford’s money-losing North American operations said Thursday he has given up use of a corporate jet for personal travel — an expensive benefit that had recently come under fire.
updated 1/18/2007 4:42:39 PM ET 2007-01-18T21:42:39

The head of Ford Motor Co.’s money-losing North American operations on Thursday told employees that he has given up use of a corporate jet for personal travel, an expensive benefit that had come under fire.

Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas, had been granted personal use of a company jet under the terms of an employment contract signed when he took over responsibility for Ford’s restructuring in late 2005.

Fields trips from Detroit to his home in Florida became controversial in recent weeks after the provision in his contract was highlighted by a Detroit television station and challenged at a time when the automaker is losing billions and slashing jobs.

The cost of flying Fields for the fourth quarter of 2005 was $214,479, according to a proxy statement filed by Ford with the Securities and Exchange Commission in April. The automaker has not yet disclosed the cost for 2006.

In 2005, Fields and then-Chief Executive Bill Ford Jr. were the only Ford executives permitted to use the company aircraft for personal travel.

Fields, 45, told Ford employees in a Webcast on Thursday that he would no longer use a corporate jet for personal trips, a company spokesman said.

“He has made a decision not to use company aircraft for personal travel,” said Ford spokesman Tom Hoyt. “He did not want that issue or any other issue to distract the North American team.”

Hoyt said Fields would use commercial aircraft to fly from Detroit to his permanent home in Florida and the company would pay for his flight.

Fields’s use of a company jet was featured in a series of reports on automotive executive benefits by WXYZ-TV in Detroit late last year and became the topic of a critical editorial in the trade publication Automotive News.

Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally, who was hired away from Boeing Co. to head the automaker in September, was also recently questioned by Ford dealers about the practice.

Hoyt said the decision to stop using the company plane had been a “personal decision” by Fields.

Fields is overseeing a restructuring that calls for the closing of 16 plants and cutting of nearly 45,00O workers.

Ford lost $7 billion during the first nine months of 2006 and further losses are forecast in the October-December period quarter and beyond.

By Ford’s own estimate, its North American unit will lose money until 2009 and run through $17 billion cash in the next three years.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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