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Jaguar taps journalist for exec post

The choice of former journalist Sue Callaway as vice president and general manager of Jaguar Cars North America is a shocker.

She is an unlikely successor to three Jaguar lifers, Graham Whitehead, Mike Dale and Mike O'Driscoll.

Granted, the general manager's position has somewhat less clout than the position of president that her predecessors held. Nevertheless, the appointment makes her the top Jaguar executive in the United States.

Callaway reports to O'Driscoll, who now is president of the newly combined Aston Martin-Jaguar-Land Rover division of Premier Automotive Group in Irvine, Calif.

Loves speed

By all accounts, Callaway, 37, is passionate about high-performance cars and driving fast, on and off the track.

She said in an interview one of her key roles will be planning future products.

But the former Fortune magazine journalist - her byline was Sue Zesiger before she married performance tuner Reeves Callaway last year - had no experience inside the auto industry before she joined Premier Automotive Group in December 2000, as director of marketing.

Her appointment as Jaguar general manager was announced Aug. 10. At the same time, O'Driscoll promoted in-house veterans to run the other two brands. John Walton, vice president and general manager of Aston Martin North America, had been responsible for worldwide sales.

Steve McKnight, now vice president and general manager for Land Rover North America, was vice president, central operations.

Mike Dale, former president of Jaguar North America, said he is "tremendously enthusiastic" about the choice of Sue Callaway.

"You have to have somebody who's got real power, who is going to stay focused on that passion, on what attracted people to the brand in the first place,'' Dale said. "After all, that's the great strength of a Bob Lutz, isn't it?"

At the same time, Dale said it is good that Callaway is surrounded by veterans.

"If it was her in isolation, I might have a different view. But there is a nice balance between her and experienced operational people who have good credentials behind them," he said.

In a restructuring that was part of the Aston Martin-Jaguar-Land Rover merger, O'Driscoll appointed a separate vice president for each of four key functions - franchise operations, retail operations, customer services, and communications and marketing services. Those four have responsibility for those functions for all three brands.

She will be No. 1 in U.S.

Callaway will work with those vice presidents, but she makes it clear she is the No. 1 U.S. executive responsible exclusively for Jaguar.

"Anything having to do with Jaguar, I will be involved with," she said in a Wednesday, Aug. 29, phone interview.

Callaway said Ford CEO Jacques Nasser personally approached her last year about joining the company.

"When he first approached me, I wasn't at all sure what he was talking about - that he was offering me a job. He finally looked at me and said, 'We want to get you in here because you really love cars. Help us get them right. We don't want you to keep critiquing them at the end of the (development) process; we want you in on the beginning,' " she said.

"So I thought, I've got to do it - change my entire life."

Callaway worked for Fortune magazine for six years. As a senior editor, she edited cover stories and special issues, and she wrote auto industry stories and product reviews. Her reviews concentrated on the most expensive cars in the world and often the names and lifestyles of the corporate world's rich and famous.

XKR won raves

She concluded a rave review of the Jaguar XKR convertible in April 2000 with this: "Have you stayed in a multithousand-dollar hotel suite? Or a manor house? No? You wouldn't understand the comparison."

She did a question-and-answer interview with Nasser in August 2000 on the Ford-Firestone crisis, which was published in September 2000.

Callaway said she took the Premier Automotive Group marketing job after months of talks with Nasser and with group Chairman Wolfgang Reitzle.

For the eight months leading to her present assignment, she worked for Reitzle at Premier Automotive Group's worldwide headquarters in London. She also spent time at the U.S. headquarters for each of the group's brands.

She said she is up to the challenge of her new job: "There's nothing I love more than great cars."

You can reach Jim Henry at

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