Ford realigns leadership under CEO Mulally

/ Source: The Associated Press

Ford Motor Co. said Thursday that more of the struggling automaker's key leaders will report directly to Chief Executive Alan Mulally under a realignment that also consolidates responsibility for global product development.

Ford said the changes are part of an effort to focus more on its worldwide business while better leveraging the global assets and capabilities of the nation's second-largest automaker.

The changes come more than two months after Mulally, a former Boeing Co. executive, took over as CEO of the automaker from Chairman Bill Ford, who is part of the automaker's founding family.

Under the new structure, all three of the company's automotive business unit leaders will report directly to Mulally instead of just one.

Lewis Booth, executive vice president in charge of Ford of Europe and the Premier Automotive Group; and John Parker, of Ford of Asia Pacific and Africa, and Mazda, will now report to the CEO. Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, will continue to report to Mulally under the new structure.

In addition, the company said that Derrick Kuzak, currently group vice president of product development for the Americas, will lead global product development and report to Mulally as well. He will continue to be responsible for Americas product development.

In the recent past, Ford hasn't had an executive in charge of global product development. In 2005, rival General Motors Corp. named Bob Lutz to oversee global product development for the world's largest automaker.

"An integrated, global product development team supporting our automotive business units will enable us to make the best use of our global assets and capabilities and accelerate development of the new vehicles our customers prefer, and do so more efficiently," Mulally said in a written statement. "This new leadership will enable us to work together more effectively as one Ford team to continuously improve the quality, productivity and speed of our product development process."

Ford lost $7 billion during the first nine months of this year and has said it won't return to profitability until 2009. Although the company's restructuring efforts include plant closures and tens of thousands of job cuts, management has said the turnaround will be product-led.

Catherine Madden, an auto industry analyst at the consulting company Global Insight Inc., said Ford might be able to cut costs with a more global structure. But she said the company must remain attentive to unique factors that drive vehicle demand in different regions, from infrastructure to gasoline prices, to make it work.

"If executed properly, it certainly could help their bottom line as well as the products they produce," Madden said.

Others that now will report directly to Mulally include: Tony Brown, purchasing; Bennie Fowler, quality and advanced manufacturing engineering; Nick Smither, information technology; and Richard Parry-Jones, chief technical officer.

Previously, Booth and Parker reported to Mark Schulz, Ford's president of international operations. Last week, Ford announced that Schulz _ who oversaw business in Europe, Africa and the Asia Pacific Region _ will retire early next year.

Brown and Fowler previously reported to Fields, while Smither and Parry-Jones had reported to another executive. Kuzak, in his role leading Americas product development, previously reported to Fields.