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Old 02-27-2003, 12:26   #1 (permalink)
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Report: Mazda North American chief to step down

Marketing exec John Mendel to replace Charlie Hughes
AutoMotive News
February 27, 2003

DETROIT -- The president-CEO of Mazda North American Operations is stepping down at the end of the week, executives with knowledge of the situation told Advertising Age, a sister publication of Automotive News.

Charlie Hughes had come out of retirement in October 2000 to lead the North American division. He retired from Land Rover North America in June 1999 when it was owned by Germany's BMW AG.

Hughes did not return calls. John Mendel, executive vice president of sales, marketing, parts and service, will step in as acting president, a company spokesman said.

Mazda, in which Ford Motor Co. holds a controlling stake, has had a steady stream of leaders in recent years both here and at its headquarters in Japan. Hughes reports directly to Lewis Booth, who became president of Japan's Mazda Motor Corp. last July. Booth succeeded Mark Fields, who was promoted to a role within Ford after 18 months at Mazda. Fields was Mazda's third president in three years.
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Old 03-02-2003, 08:12   #2 (permalink)
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Mazda North American chief ousted over low sales

By Mark Truby / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- Mazda North American Operations President and CEO Charlie Hughes said he was fired from the Ford Motor Co.-controlled automaker because of disappointing sales.

Mazda Motor Corp. president Lewis Booth -- in an e-mail to employees Thursday -- announced Hughes' departure without elaborating.

Hughes departure struck many as sudden, in part because no permanent replacement was named. Former Ford of Europe executive John Mandel was named acting president.

"I was terminated by Ford this week primarily because they were disappointed with sales," Hughes told The Detroit News in an interview. He declined to be more specific.

Mazda sold 258,213 vehicles last year, down 4.2 percent since 2001. The elimination of Mazda's Millenia and 626 sedans accounted for some of the decline. Also, the new Mazda6 mid-size car that hit showrooms late last year got off to a slow start.

Mazda spokesman Jeremy Barnes declined to discuss why Hughes left the company, but said sales last year were disappointing.

"Any time your sales are down, you are not happy with that," Barnes said. "If last year had gone well, indeed we would have grown sales."

Though he didn't blame Hughes, Barnes said that the initial sales launch of the Mazda6 could have been more successful had the company better predicted customer preferences. Barnes said advertising played up the six-cylinder version of the sedan loaded with options like leather seats. Mazda, however, was building a high number of four-cylinder Mazda6 sedans.

"People were coming to dealerships looking for the well-equipped V-6," Barnes said.

Hughes came out of retirement in October 2000 to lead Mazda North American. He retired from Land Rover North America in June 1999.

Despite his firing, Hughes said he sees a bright future for Mazda in the United States, which is planning to launch a number of new vehicles in the United States.

"Mazda's team is strong and they are entering a product renaissance," Hughes said.
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