Ford to consolidate brands’ sales and marketing

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. consolidated its sales and marketing for its Ford division with its Lincoln Mercury arm effective Aug. 1, according to two executives close to the automaker.

In a cost-cutting move, the marketing and sales staff will be aligned by vehicle type and have responsibility for models in that category from all three brands, they said.

Lincoln Mercuryís sales and marketing groups were traditionally separate from those of Ford division, but Ford plans to align the staff by vehicle type rather than by brand.

Ford traditionally had an executive overseeing all three vehicle brands for North America but maintained separate sales and marketing groups for Ford along with Lincoln Mercury.

Ford declined to comment on the matter to Advertising Age, an affiliate publication of Automotive News.

Reassigned managers

On Tuesday, July 29, Ford announced new assignments and positions internally. The key moves, according to the two executives, are:

Ford veteran Brett Wheatley, who in February was named general marketing manager for Lincoln Mercury, moves to the customer incentives group; and Tom Grill, Lincoln brand manager, moves to the global marketing group under Anne Belec, director of Fordís global marketing.

The moves are part of Fordís latest round of cost cutting, announced in June, which called for a 15 percent reduction in white-collar staff by Aug. 1. Ford last week reported a record global net loss of $8.7 billion in the second quarter. The automaker also said it slashed spending on worldwide auto advertising and sales promotions (excluding incentives) in the period by $200 million to just $100 million.

Among the staff casualties was Mark Kaline, the high-profile global media manager of Ford Motor, who confirmed he left this week after 11 years.

Kaline said the staff cuts are the fourth or fifth at Ford in recent years and ďnone of the separations were performance-related.Ē He said heís ďnever worked with more dedicated, hard-working people.Ē

Also, Michael Sprague, head of marketing for the Lincoln and Mercury brands, on Thursday, July 31, announced plans to leave that post to join Kia Motors America Inc. as its vice president for marketing, effective Aug. 11. Over the past 12 years, Sprague has worked at Ford, except for 2002-2004.

Todd Turner, president of consulting firm Car Concepts, said Ford may as well combine sales and marketing for the three divisions for savings. Handling models from the three brands by vehicle type makes sense because thatís how Fordís product planners are aligned and the setup allows planners to establish differences by brand.

Waiting for repercussions

Fordís marketing shifts are bound to have an impact on its U.S. ad and media agency WPP Groupís dedicated Team Detroit. The agency should insist on maintaining dedicated brand teams for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury to keep the brands distinct, said a third executive, who formerly worked on Fordís account.

The automaker gave clues the consolidation was in the wings. On July 1, it revealed that Ken Czubay was rejoining the company July 16 as vice president of sales and marketing of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles in the United States. The automaker also said John Felice, general marketing manager of Ford division, would add Lincoln Mercury to his duties and report to Czubay, 59, who worked for Ford in 1970-1983 in various management and executive posts.

Andrew Grossman of Automotive News contributed to this story

You can reach Jean Halliday at jhalliday42@gmail.com

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