Stevens to take key Ford post
New chief operating officer of Americas division will freshen management, work to restore profits.
By Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News
DEARBORN -- Anne Stevens is about to become the chief operating officer of Ford Motor Co.'s Americas division, a promotion that will make her one of the highest-ranking women in the automotive industry.
The expected move is part of a major management shakeup at Ford that began earlier this month when Fields took over as president of Ford's Americas division -- which includes North America and South America. Company spokespeople would not confirm Stevens' promotion, which could happen as early as today, but acknowledged that a number of changes are in the works.
"There are some leadership recommendations that (Ford Chairman and CEO) Bill Ford and Mark Fields will be making to the board," said Ford spokesman Oscar Suris.
Earlier this week, the company stunned industry watchers by confirming the resignations of Phil Martens and Matt DeMars, both senior members of Ford's management team. Martens was in charge of Ford's product development efforts and DeMars was head of North American vehicle operations. Both men are reportedly headed to Plastech Engineered Products, a Dearborn-based auto supplier.
Industry sources suggested that Martens' decision to leave the company was linked to Stevens' promotion, which appeared to block his own path to the top. Martens would have reported to Stevens under the new structure instead of Fields, with whom he worked closely at Mazda Motor Corp. a few years ago.
The Detroit News also reported this week that that Roman Krygier, Ford's vice president in charge of manufacturing, is expected to retire at the end of the year.
A racing fan with a penchant for quoting military history, Stevens, 56, is currently Ford's group vice president for Canada, Mexico and South America, a position she has held since October 2003. In that capacity, she oversees Ford's business operations in the Americas, with the exception of the United States, including 21 assembly plants and eight other manufacturing facilities. In this newly created position, she will be one of Bill Ford's top lieutenants and will work with him to try to restore profits in North America.
"I want more," Stevens said in an interview with Automotive News published last month. "I want more responsibility in terms of the business. I can do more. I'm capable of doing more. And I want more. I do want to be a CEO."
Stevens' career at Ford began in 1990, when she was hired as a marketing specialist by the company's plastic products division. Since then, she has a held a number of management positions, including vice president of North American vehicle operations. In addition to becoming Ford's first female group vice president, Stevens also became the company's first female plant manager in Europe when she took over Ford's Enfield plant in England in 1995.
"She's considered a first-class manufacturing person," said David E. Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. He thinks that makes her a good choice for the job. "If you look at where they put most of their money and people, it's in factories."
Lindsay Brooke, senior manager of market assessment with CSM Worldwide, said Stevens' promotion is another sign that Bill Ford has initiated an important new era at the company founded more than a century ago by his great-grandfather.
"The deeper question at Ford is the sort of byzantine management and politics that has existed at the company, really, since Henry Ford's time," Brooke said, adding that shattering the entrenched bureaucracy in Dearborn is more important than whose name is on what door.
"I don't think the moves are completed yet," he said. "Styling is still a big question."
As The Detroit News reported Tuesday, Martens is expected to be replaced by Derrick Kuzak, currently vice president of engineering for North America. 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 also expected to gain new duties as a result of the shuffle.
The new appointments still need to be approved by Ford's board of directors, which has been meeting this week.
Born in Reading, Penn., Stevens earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical and materials engineering from Drexel University in Philadelphia. She came to Ford from Exxon Mobil Corp.
In addition to her work at Ford, Stevens serves on the board of directors of Lockheed Martin Corp. and the Council of the Americas. She is also a member of the board of trustees at Drexel University and the Women's Automotive Association International, and serves on the advisory board of the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Stevens has been named three times to Fortune magazine's "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" list.