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Mazda COO zoom zooms to Europe

LOS ANGELES — Steve Odell, the No. 2 Mazda executive in the United States, is transferring overseas to become president of Mazda Motor Europe.

Effective Jan. 1, Odell will be replaced by John Mendel, marketing director for Ford of Britain. Mendel’s title will be executive vice president of sales and marketing, customer service and parts at Mazda North American Operations.

Odell, 47, who has been executive vice president and COO under CEO Charlie Hughes, had headed Mazda’s U.S. marketing since the summer of 2000. Before that he was vice president of sales and marketing with Jaguar’s U.S. sales arm. At Mazda, he had begun to implement the North American rendition of the company’s global “Zoom-zoom” ad campaign.

Mendel’s work as Odell’s successor already is defined, Odell said.

“We’ve clearly got to continue the momentum with the marketing campaign,” Odell said. Mendel also must make the late 2002 launch of a new mid-sized sedan, the Mazda 6, a success. “He’s got to prepare Mazda dealers to sell this and consumers to want to accept it,” Odell said.

He said that in Europe he must make sure dealers are profitable and put Mazda “back on people’s radar screens.”

Mazda Motor Europe said last week that it was losing “several hundred million dollars a year” and did not expect any “sustainable” profits before 2004. The company also said it could pull out of some smaller European countries so it can focus on Europe’s biggest markets.

The appointments are part of a shuffle between Mazda and Ford Motor Co. personnel. The president of Mazda Motor Europe, Jan Brentebraten, will become managing director of Ford of Sweden. Replacing Mendel at Ford of Britain will be Paul Van Der Burgh. He is Ford’s brand manager for global parts marketing in North America.

Ford owns a 33.4 percent stake in Mazda.

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