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Fiat just latest to lose CEO

20 companies in 2 years have replaced top exec

Changes at the top
Financial losses and other woes have caused many automakers and subsidiaries to hire new CEOs in the last 2 years. Here are 8 key examples:

Adam Opel

CEO: Carl-Peter Forster, 47

Appointed: April 2001

Reason for change: Predecessor Bob Hendry was unable to restore Opel's profits.

Chrysler group

CEO: Dieter Zetsche, 48

Appointed: November 2000

Reason for change: DaimlerChrysler Chairman Juergen Schrempp sent Zetsche to rescue the financially troubled Chrysler group.

Fiat Auto

CEO: Giancarlo Boschetti, 62

Appointed: Effective January 2002

Reason for change: Roberto Testore, 49, resigned as dealers and suppliers revolted and shareholders grew impatient with financial losses.

Ford Motor Co.

CEO: Bill Ford, 44

Appointed: October 2001

Reason for change: Bill Ford succeeded Jacques Nasser, who alienated employees and dealers and posted large losses.

Ford of Europe

CEO: David Thursfield, 56

Appointed: January 2001

Reason for change: Thursfield was promoted to guide the company's turnaround when predecessor Nick Scheele left for North America.

Isuzu Motors

CEO: Yoshinori Ida, 58

Appointed: December 2000

Reason for change: Predecessor Takeshi Inoh failed to come up with an effective restructuring plan.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

CEO: Takashi Sonobe, 61

Appointed: November 2000

Reason for change: Predecessor Katsuhiko Kawasoe left to take responsibility for massive quality scandal.

Nissan Motor Co.

CEO: Carlos Ghosn, 47

Appointed: June 2000

Reason for change: Then-COO Ghosn consolidated power to continue Nissan's revival.

Being CEO of an auto company has many advantages. Job security isn't one of them.

The musical chairs continued last week when Roberto Testore resigned as CEO of Fiat Auto S.p.A. Before that, Ford Motor Co. let CEO Jacques Nasser go in October, replacing him with Bill Ford.

In the last two years, 20 global auto companies and major subsidiaries, such as General Motors' Adam Opel AG subsidiary in Germany and DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler group in the United States, replaced their CEOs.

The souring economy explains some of the CEO churn. But David Cole, director of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the son of former GM President Edward Cole, says larger factors are at work.

"Right now, it's a broken business model," he said. The many new CEOs illustrate "the gravity of the problem."

"We have high volume, but we're not making money," he said. "There is chaos in the supply chain. And e-tools now allow incredible connectivity."

Fresh thinking, typically from young executives, is needed to find new ways of doing business, he says.

In the United States, CEOs of the Big 3 all have taken their jobs in the last two years, and all are in their 40s. GM's Rick Wagoner and the Chrysler group's Dieter Zetsche are 48. Bill Ford is 44. The youngest auto CEO is an American working in Japan: Mark Fields, 40, of Mazda Motor Corp.

But in the case of Fiat, 62-year-old Giancarlo Boschetti, who had led Fiat's truck and bus unit for 11 years, succeeded 49-year-old Roberto Testore.

The global CEO churn, taking place in Europe, North America and Japan, frequently is tied to financial distress, but not always. At GM, for instance, CEO Rick Wagoner succeeded mentor Jack Smith in a smooth transition.

A new corporate culture is emerging, Cole says, in which CEOs will tend to be coaches rather than kings.

Ford Motor provides an example of that shift. Bill Ford has made building bridges to employees, dealers and other stakeholders a top priority. Nasser was known for having a driven, imperial style.

Cole adds that the new culture will emphasize team building and Internet connectivity. Decision making will become less bureaucratic, and alliances will be more important than acquisitions.









You can reach Charles Child at (Unknown address)

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