NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Ford Motor Co. shuffled several of its top executives, bringing the head of its troubled European unit to run its key North American operations.|
The moves are seen as an effort to remedy quality problem at the world's No. 2 automaker, which has been dogged by recalls and a decline in the productivity advantages it once had over other members of the Big Three.
Nick Scheele is the new group vice president North America, giving him responsibility for all operations here, including manufacturing, product development and marketing and sales of Ford cars and trucks in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Head of Ford's European unit will be in charge of North American operations.
Scheele succeeds Martin Inglis, who becomes chief financial officer. Henry Wallace, who had been CFO, was named group vice president, Mazda and Ford Asia Pacific. Wayne Booker is retiring from his position as vice chairman. Ford also promoted seven other executives to top positions.
The moves, announced late Thursday, take effect Aug. 1.
British born Scheele has overseen a turnaround of Ford's European unit, which in the first quarter posted an operating profit after years of losses. Before that he was CEO of Jaguar Cars Ltd., the Ford luxury performance unit. Worldwide Jaguar sales doubled during his tenure there.
Ford has been dogged with increasing quality problems in its core North American operations, reducing profitability.
A survey of plant productivity by Harbour & Associates last month showed that leading automaker General Motors Corp. has started closing the productivity gap with Ford at its North American plants.
Ford's ratings in product quality from various organizations such as J.D. Power & Associates also have fallen. Power named only one Ford vehicle, the full-size Expedition sport/utility vehicle, as best in its class in initial quality.
The company has been hit by the recall of nearly 20 million Firestone tires used primarily on its vehicles, and charges by Bridgestone/Firestone executives that the automaker is replacing 13 million of the tires itself to divert attention from safety design problems of its Explorer sport/utility vehicles.
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Besides the Firestone move, Ford has been hit with other embarrassing recalls, including about 50,000 of the redesigned 2002 Explorers after the company found an assembly line conveyor belt that was too narrow for the wider 2002 model left five- to nine-inch long gashes on tires. In April it had to recall another 56,652 new Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers because the rear liftgate windows could break when shut.