Two of Ford Motor Co.’s top executives will be swapping jobs as part of a broader management shift.
Stephen Odell has been named the new executive vice president of Global Marketing, Sales and Service operations, taking over from current marketing chief Jim Farley. Farley, in turn, takes over Odell’s old job as EVP and President of Europe, Middle East and Africa.
The announcements mark the most significant management shake-up since Mark Fields became Ford’s chief executive officer over the summer. But Ford is stressing that the changes were part of a “planned” and orderly transition.
“The retirements and moves have been planned for some time,” the maker said in a statement. “The moves are part of our normal succession plan to develop our senior leaders through deep experience within both our business units and global skill teams and to ensure a smooth transition as changes in the team occur.”
Farley and Odell had been considered long-shots in the run-up to replace now-retired Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who stepped down in July after a seven-year run that saw a major shift in both corporate strategy and management policies. Prior to Mulally’s arrival from his former post at Boeing, Ford was known for its political infighting, especially at the upper management level. Mulally put an emphasis on team-building, a policy successor Fields has promised to maintain.
Ford, like many other major corporations, tries to give its senior leaders a broad range of experiences so, from that standpoint, the Odell-Farley job swap – which formally takes effect on Jan. 1 – is not a complete surprise, several sources close to the company suggested.
“We are excited to see Jim and Stephen take on these new roles as they bring unique skills, experience and fresh perspectives to these critical positions,” said CEO Fields. “These moves also underscore our commitment to develop our senior leaders through deep experience within both our business units and our global skill teams.”
Odell has been running Ford of Europe since 2010, and added Africa and the Middle East to his portfolio at the end of 2012. The 59-year-old, British-born executive has been given credit for reining in the massive losses Ford has experienced in Europe, though the maker recently revealed the turnaround will take longer than expected to put Ford of Europe back in the black.
Odell joined Ford as a graduate trainee in 1980 and, during the past four decades has worked not only for the Detroit maker’s core operations but also on assignment to former subsidiaries and partners including Jaguar, Mazda and Volvo. He was assigned by Mulally to try to straighten out the Swedish automaker in the years prior to its sale to China’s Geely.
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The 52-year-old Farley’s ties to Ford date back decades, his grandfather serving as one of the maker’s earliest dealers. But the graduate of Georgetown University and UCLA spent his early years in the auto industry working for Toyota. He helped launch its youth-oriented Scion brand and, just before taking a job back in Detroit, led the Japanese maker’s luxury arm, Lexus.
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Since joining Ford as its top marketer in 2007, Farley has tried to foster a climate of innovation, shifting emphasis from traditional advertising and marketing approaches, with an emphasis on the Internet and social media. Until earlier this year, Farley also was helping steer efforts to revive the long-struggling Ford luxury brand Lincoln.
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Ford announced several other management changes, notably the retirement of its chief information officer, Nick Smither, a 34-year veteran. He will be replaced by Marcy Klevorn. And Robert Brown, vice president of Sustainability, Environment & Safety Engineering operations, will retire after a 35-year Ford career. He’ll be replaced by Kim Pattel.