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Daniel Howes

Ford lures Toyota exec to steer marketing

Ford Motor Co. today said that James D. Farley, group vice president of Toyota Motor Co.'s Lexus Division, will be Ford's first chief marketing and communications officer.

"We are thrilled to welcome one of the most successful and talented leaders in the industry to the Ford Motor Company team," CEO Alan Mulally said in a statement, confirming a story first reported in this column today. "Jim Farley is well known for innovative marketing strategies that connect great products to today's and tomorrow's customers. Ford's quality and vehicles are now on par with the best of the competition. We look forward to Jim's leadership to combine world-class marketing with our world-class products worldwide."

The move is a signature appointment by Mulally, who has openly criticized Ford's marketing efforts and signaled his desire to install top marketing talent at the Glass House. Farley's arrival also will be yet another high-profile defection from vaunted Toyota to a Detroit automaker, suggesting that highly regarded industry pros see opportunity in their beleaguered rivals.

"Farley is their superstar," a source familiar with the situation told me today, adding that Ford has been talking with Farley off and on for a year. "It's a done deal. This is a good move for us. This is the guy we wanted. He has an engineering background."

The appointment of Farley, 45, was approved today by Ford's directors. As the first head of global marketing and communications for Ford, he would assume what is arguably the industry's most monumental marketing challenge. Ford has foundered amid weak campaigns, discarded and then revived brand names like Taurus, poor product definition and plunging market share.

Under Mulally, an aerospace engineer and 37-year veteran of Boeing Co. before arriving at Ford last fall, key marketing decisions -- such as reviving the Taurus model name -- have been pushed by him, a engineer-cum-CEO who understands his limitations in the marketing world.

It's hard to overstate the symbolism of Farley's appointment by Ford. That a rising Toyota star, the head of Lexus and a founder of its Scion youth brand would bolt the Japanese juggernaut for the struggling Blue Oval is a testament to Mulally's leadership, the strength of Ford's current lineup, the promise of its future products and the upside in it all.

And unlike Chrysler LLC, which could use the opaque world of private equity to woo Farley's old boss, Jim Press, from Toyota North America to Auburn Hills, Ford is doing so in the more transparent world of public companies.

These moves are not accidental, but instead telegraph a determination to land top talent at Detroit companies that have historically shunned outsiders. Not anymore. Both Ford and Chrysler now are headed by industry outsiders whose paths to the CEO offices here were paved by their success elsewhere and their willingness to look outside their new companies for the best marketing talent they can find.

Mulally, for one, has long been an admirer of Toyota. While head of Boeing's commercial aviation unit, he studied its production methods and adapted them to aircraft assembly. Nor is he shy about conceding that the model he envisions for Ford -- "one Ford," built around the promise of a solid Blue Oval, not ancillary, money-losing luxury brands -- is the Toyota model.

Before heading Lexus, the nation's top-selling luxury brand, Farley was group vice president of Toyota Division marketing. He was responsible for all Toyota Division market planning, advertising, merchandising, sales promotion, incentives and Internet activities. He also served as vice president of Scion, Toyota's youth-oriented brand.

Farley, who earned a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University and an MBA from UCLA, joined Toyota in 1990 in the strategic-planning department.

Daniel Howes' column typically runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. You can reach him at (313) 222-2106, [email protected] or DETNEWS | Weblog | Daniel Howes.
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