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Old 06-11-2002, 09:31   #1 (permalink)
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Ford continues shuffle as Premier Group, Volvo executives switch positions

By JIM HENRY AND MARK RECHTIN
Automotive News

Ford Motor Co. continues to shuffle its executive ranks.

Vic Doolan, who has headed Premier Automotive Group operations in North America since 1999, will reassume the presidency of Volvo Cars of North America Inc., a position he simultaneously held on an interim basis last year.

After just nine months as president of Volvo's North American operations, Dan Werbin will take Doolan's job as executive director of Premier Automotive Group.

The job swap takes effect Monday, June 17. Both men will continue to work at Premier Automotive Group's U.S. headquarters in Irvine, Calif.

Sources at Volvo and within the dealer body said the move shows that Volvo needs a leader more tuned to the U.S. market, while Premier Automotive Group needs someone who is focused on product. But dealers are becoming frustrated at musical chairs in the Volvo executive suite.

Doolan, 61, held the Volvo post for six months while waiting for Werbin (pronounced ver-BEAN) to move from the top job at Volvo Japan, in the wake of the unexpected departure of Mark LaNeve to become Cadillac's general manager.

Doolan won praise for his marketing sense and for connecting with Volvo dealers. "He established a very strong rapport with the dealers. He's a no-BS guy," said Kjell Bergh, owner of Borton Volvo in Minneapolis.

Doolan was president of BMW of North America Inc. from 1993 to 1999, when sales more than doubled. Before that he was executive vice president of sales and marketing. He resigned from BMW to join Premier Automotive Group.

Werbin, 57, has held overseas assignments that kept him distant from the U.S. market. Werbin, an engineer by trade, is known as a sharp product developer, especially for his work on the Volvo 850 team.

The 850 switched Volvo's layout from rear-wheel drive and a north-south engine to a more contemporary combination of front-wheel drive and an east-west engine. The 850 had its U.S. debut in 1992 and was phased out in 2000 when it was known as the S70.

Werbin's appointment also suggests that Premier Automotive Group is stepping up its efforts to share components and equipment among its brands. "Dan's specialty in engineering will get more use in his new assignment," Bergh said.

Werbin has a long relationship with Hans-Olov Olsson, CEO of parent Volvo Car Corp. in Sweden. Olsson was president of Volvo Cars of North America before winning his present job and appointing LaNeve to the U.S. post in 2000.

Werbin was vice president for product engineering and development for Volvo's U.S. subsidiary, then based in Rockleigh, N.J., in the early 1970s.
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