U.S.A.:Ford names Europe chief
Mazda president will lead troubled operations that lost $774 million in first half of 2003
By Mark Truby / The Detroit News
DEARBORN -- Ford Motor Co. has named Lewis Booth, president of Mazda Motor Corp., as the new head of its struggling European operations, the company announced Tuesday night.
Booth, 54, becomes president and chief operating officer of Ford of Europe, replacing Martin Leach, who resigned earlier this month.
Leach was under pressure after Ford of Europe missed its financial goals for several straight quarters and lost $774 million through the first half of 2003.
To fill Booth's position, Mazda's board of directors named Hisakazu Imaki, 60, president of the Hiroshima, Japan-based automaker. Imaki becomes the first Japanese president of Ford-controlled Mazda since 1996.
In addition, Mazda named John Parker, 55, as executive vice president and assistant to the president. Parker had been running Ford's operations in Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines.
Booth, a native of Liverpool, England, and veteran of Ford postings around the world, faces a difficult test.
Cologne Germany-based Ford of Europe, touted as one of Ford's greatest strengths as recently as last year, has become a serious threat to the automaker's turnaround goals. Booth will report to Executive Vice President David Thursfield, who has been working intensively in recent weeks to revive Ford of Europe.
"Lewis Booth has had broad experience in many regions across the Ford world and is no stranger to our operations in Europe," Thursfield said. "Lewis is in a great position to address the challenges we face in Europe and to spur us back into a position of sustained profitability."
In the past three years, Ford of Europe has tightened its belt, cutting 2,000 jobs, eliminating 600,000 units of capacity by closing three plants and ending car production in the United Kingdom. Key plants were reconfigured to be flexible enough to turn out multiple models.
The turnaround plan, though, lost all momentum this year. While Ford's unit sales, revenues and market share are up this year in Europe, the company blames falling net prices, an unfavorable product mix and lower industry sales for wider losses.
While Ford of Europe's new product line has been well-received by critics, Ford has struggled to win new buyers from competitors. Ford of Europe's market share remains at 9 percent -- up slightly from last year but well below historical levels.
In 1994, Ford of Europe grabbed 12.1 percent of the market, then lost share in each of the next six years.
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My next Ford.....