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U.S.A.:Thursfield to retire; Ford promotes Padilla and makes other changes

Thursfield to retire; Ford promotes Padilla

Automotive News
Reuters contributed to this report.

David Thursfield, 58, head of international operations and global purchasing at Ford Motor Co., is retiring May 1, part of a major executive shakeup.

The company gave no reason for his departure. But Ford of Europe is still struggling financially despite Thursfield's turnaround plan. He will become a con******t to the company.

Jim Padilla, 57, becomes COO and chairman of global automotive operations, taking a key part of Nick Scheele's responsibilities. He will report to Bill Ford. Padilla was president of the Americas.

Scheele, 60, will remain as president but relinquishes the COO title to Padilla.

"Jim Padilla is all about results," CEO Bill Ford said in a press release. "That shows in what he's accomplished in the past couple of years. The company has made a swing of nearly $6 billion in profitability in the past two years."

In the first quarter of this year, Ford posted net income of $1.95 billion, exceeding analysts' expectations.

In other changes:

Greg Smith, 52, CEO of Ford Motor Credit Co., becomes an executive vice president and president of the Americas, replacing Padilla.

Mark Fields, 43, becomes a corporate executive vice president in charge of Ford of Europe and the Premier Automotive Group. He continues as CEO of the Premier Automotive Group.

Mark Schulz, 51, was named an executive vice president and president of Asia Pacific and Africa. Schulz was group vice president for Asia Pacific. He will continue to have responsibility for the Ford-Mazda relationship.

Mike Bannister, 53, succeeds Smith as CEO of Ford Motor Credit Co. He was president of Ford Credit. He will report to Vice Chairman Allan Gilmour.

Lewis Booth, 55, becomes CEO of Ford of Europe, reporting to Fields. He was president of Ford of Europe.

Smith, Fields and Schultz will report to Padilla.

Padilla, Scheele and Thursfield have been fast-rising trio of stars at the second-largest U.S. automaker in recent years. But Padilla, who boasts a solid background in manufacturing, was alone in having extensive North American experience.

Just last year, Scheele denied reports of bad blood between him and Thursfield, in a memo that was leaked to a Detroit newspaper. But Detroit has long been awash with rumors about internal rivalries among Ford's top managers and efforts by Bill Ford to settle his management team down.

Despite such problems, Ford posted its first full-year profit since 2000 last year. And first-quarter net earnings rose to $1.95 billion from $896 million a year earlier.

Ford's North American auto business saw pretax profit jump to $1.97 billion, up by $722 million from the year-ago quarter.

But Ford Europe, run by Thursfield, posted a pretax profit of just $5 million.

Thursfield also was a central figure in the lawsuit filed against Ford by Martin Leach, former president of Ford of Europe.

In his lawsuit, Leach said he meet with Thursfield in August 2003 and told him of his desire to leave Ford on mutually agreeable terms. Leach wanted out of the two-year noncompete clause in his contract. Thursfield testified that he concluded that Leach had quit, although Leach continued to show up for work. A judge in January barred Ford Motor Co. from enforcing the noncompete clause.

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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