Ford loses three top execs
Loss creates major reshuffling in North America; more are expected to leave
By Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
A one-time rising star and possible candidate for Ford CEO, but he began to clash with some Ford engineers and realized his Ford career may have peaked.
Head of Ford's North American operations, plans to join Martens at an automotive supplier. He recently oversaw the revamping of Ford's top-selling F-150 pickup line.
Long-time manufacturing executive plans to retire by end of the year. His departure comes as Ford plans to close more assembly plants to align vehicle demand with supply.
Detroit native, born in 1951, is expected to take the reins of Ford's North American product development efforts
Native of Sheffield, England -- made famous for metalworking and steel -- will replace Krygier as manufacturing chief.
46-year old will assume more duties at a time when Ford is racing to develop more fuel efficient powertrains.
At least three top executives are leaving Ford Motor Co. and the struggling automaker is signaling that another management shakeup is in the works.
Phil Martens, Ford Motor Co.'s group vice president and head of product creation for North America, and Matt DeMars, Ford's vice president of North American vehicle operations, have resigned, the company said Monday.
"We have received correspondence indicating their intention to leave," Ford spokesman Oscar Suris said Monday.
In addition, Roman Krygier, Ford's vice president in charge of manufacturing, is expected to retire at the end of the year, according to company sources. He joined the automaker in 1964 and has held a variety of manufacturing posts.
Martens and DeMars are reportedly in discussions to join Plastech Engineered Products Inc. in Dearborn. The supplier, which makes plastic automotive trim and bumpers, had $680 million in sales in 2004. Plastech could not be reached for comment.
The moves come as Ford chairman and CEO Bill Ford Jr. and Mark Fields, executive vice president and newly named president of Ford's Americas division, are recasting the company's management in the face of growing losses and U.S. market share.
Last month, Ford promoted Fields to his current position and moved Greg Smith to a vice chairman role.
"Bill Ford and Mark Fields have made an assessment of the management team in the Americas, and we expect they will review certain leadership changes with our board in the very near future," Suris said.
Suris declined to comment on Krygier's situation. But he added "we would not be surprised if some (other) people elect to leave Ford Motor Co. in the meantime."
Ford is trying to revive its sputtering North American operations that lost $907 million in the second quarter and reinvigorate its new car and truck development efforts. Martens has drawn criticism for delayed vehicle programs, some of which have run over cost targets. Some Ford engineers have also criticized his management style as too abrasive.
"Getting the right people working together as a team will be one of my first priorities," Fields said in an internal communication to employees dated Sept. 26. "The most successful businesses in the world have a group of individuals that knows how to create as a team."
As recently as last month, Bill Ford described Martens as a key player in the automaker's turnaround.
"I am not interested in undoing a global development process that is already making us more effective and efficient, but I have asked Phil Martens to work with me to augment that process," Bill Ford said in a speech Sept. 21.
But in recent weeks, it became apparent to Martens that his Ford career had peaked.
Martens, 45, started at Ford in 1987. He was named to his current post, group vice president of product creation, on Oct. 1, 2003.
Martens upset some at Ford last month when he told Automotive News, an industry trade newspaper, that the automaker's latest round of white-collar job cuts would not affect the company's engineering ranks. In fact, Ford did cut a number of engineering jobs.
"It sounds like Fields and Bill Ford are revamping product development and manufacturing," said Lindsay Brooke, senior manager of market assessment with CSM Worldwide. "This is clearly Bill Ford with his hands on the tiller and Fields at his side."
But Brooke and other analysts also wonder who Ford will tap to replace Martens and DeMars.
"My concern with Ford is they don't really have a strong bench," Brooke said. "So many of the experienced guys have already left the company."
While management titles may not be exactly the same, Martens is expected to be replaced by Derrick Kuzak, currently vice president of engineering for North America. Kuzak was appointed to that position Aug. 1. Before that, he was vice president of product development at Ford Europe. A native Detroiter, Kuzak was hired by Ford in 1978 as a research engineer.
Krygier is expected to be succeeded by David Szczupak, currently vice president of powertrain operations and a member of the board of directors for Volvo Car Corp.
Barbara Samardzich, now executive director of small front-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive vehicles for Ford, is expected to gain new duties as a result of the shuffle.
"They're both people who have been rising stars at Ford," Brooke said. "I think Szczupak would be very effective in that job. (Samardzich) is a good move, too. She's well thought of in the company."
The new appointments still need to be approved by Ford's board of directors.
The departures come as Ford is struggling to turn around its North American operations. The plans are expected to include more plant closings and changes to Ford's car and truck lineup.
Martens was supposed to be leading the charge. He was considered a rising star at Ford, the man credited with turning around Mazda Motor Corp.'s product development and the principal architect of the Mazda6 sedan and the RX-8 sports car.
At Mazda, Martens worked closely with Fields, leading many inside Ford to believe they would work well in North America.
Ford is using the Mazda6 as the basis for its new line of midsize cars and crossovers -- including the Ford Fusion, Lincoln Zephyr and Mercury Milan.
"These developments don't change that," Suris said. "No strategy is the result of one single individual. It's a team effort."
DeMars also had a distinguished career at Ford. Most notably, he oversaw the development of the current F-150 pickup, which debuted last year to good reviews and strong sales.