COMMENT: Thursfield must make the plan stick

With the resignation of Martin Leach as president and COO of Ford of Europe, the pressure falls on his former boss David Thursfield to reverse losses at Ford of Europe.

Now based in the USA, Thursfield had retained his title as Ford of Europe chairman, even though he had transferred in 2001 to Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn to run international operations and global purchasing. Now he'll be spending most of his time at Ford's European headquarters in Cologne.

Along with Ford President and COO Nick Scheele, Thursfield was co-architect of Ford's European Transformation Strategy. They set the plan in motion in 2000 in order to reverse Ford's market share losses and make the unit more profitable. The turnaround strategy consisted mainly of closing inefficient plants, increasing flexibility of remaining factories and launching a new model offensive. The plan was used as a model by Ford's struggling North American operations.

But Ford executives were embarrassed when Europe operations posted a $525 million loss in the second quarter. Ford officials still believe their turnaround is on track, but William Clay Ford Jr., Ford chairman, now wants Thursfield to stay in Cologne and make sure the plan sticks this time.