4 top execs out at Ford; Galhotra takes over marketing

Lincoln brand head Kumar Galhotra will add the title of chief marketing officer of Ford Motor Co.

DETROIT -- Four top executives are leaving Ford Motor Co. as CEO Jim Hackett reshapes his leadership team to make the automaker more competitive.

Ford on Tuesday said its heads of global marketing, quality, human resources and strategy will voluntarily depart between now and the end of the year. Among those being promoted in their place is Kumar Galhotra, president of the Lincoln brand, who will add the title of Ford Motor chief marketing officer.

The moves come as North American vehicle sales slow and as Ford transitions to offering new mobility services. Ford has made strides in the quality department, finishing as the No. 2 nonpremium brand in J.D. Power's 2017 Initial Quality Study, although the automaker has been plagued recently by recalls for door-latch issues that have cost hundreds of millions of dollars to repair.

The announcement also comes two days before Ford announces third-quarter earnings.

Stephen Odell, 62, Ford's executive vice president of global marketing, sales and service, will retire after 37 years at Ford.

Bennie Fowler, 61, Ford's vice president of quality and new-model launches, will retire after 27 years with the company. Linda Cash, 55, will succeed Fowler. Cash, currently vice president of manufacturing for Ford of Europe, was on the Automotive News list of 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry in 2010.

John Casesa, Ford's vice president of global strategy, will leave the company effective Nov. 1. Casesa, a former Wall Street investment banker, joined Ford in 2015.

"As we develop our strategy to become the most trusted mobility company, designing smart vehicles for a smart world, we will continue to reshape the organization to deliver the most value for our customers and all of our stakeholders," Hackett, who replaced Mark Fields as CEO in May, said in a statement. "The changes we are announcing today will further align resources and improve efficiencies throughout our global markets and operations. At the same time, I want to recognize the truly significant contributions of the senior leaders departing from Ford and thank them for their many years of service."

Odell, 62, was key to Ford's turnaround in Europe, where it has posted profits following aggressive job cuts and plant closures. He moved to the U.S.-based global sales and marketing role about three years ago.

"Stephen has made significant contributions to Ford, including laying the groundwork for our turnaround in Europe and positioning us for success as we continue to create a world-class global marketing and sales organization," Hackett said. "In addition, he has mentored and helped develop many of our next generation of leaders. We appreciate his many years of service and wish him well in the future."

Ford said Galhotra, 51, in taking over Odell's marketing responsibilities, will be charged with "shifting investments towards product categories that play to Ford's strengths, and developing more effective brand communications including digital services, emobility and autonomy."

Ford announced several other leadership changes:

•Dale Wishnousky, 54, will succeed Cash as vice president of European manufacturing.

Birgit Behrendt, 58, who leads global powertrain purchasing and global purchasing operations, will become vice president of joint ventures, alliances and commercial affairs, a new position.

•Felicia Fields, 52, group vice president of human resources, will retire.

•Kiersten Robinson, 47, executive director of human resources for global markets, will be the interim head of human resources.

Joy Falotico, the CEO of Ford Credit, will report directly to Ford CEO Jim Hackett. She previously reported to CFO Bob Shanks.

Behrendt, Fields and Falotico were each on the Automotive News list of 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry in 2010 and 2015. Fields was on the 2005 list as well.

You can reach Michael Martinez at mdmartinez@crain.com -- Follow Michael on Twitter: @MikeMartinez_AN

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