Ford CFO Booth, product chief Kuzak to retire on April 1
Mulally remains mum on succession plan
Ford executives (clockwise from upper left): the departing Lewis Booth and Derrick Kuzak; successors Raj Nair and Bob Shanks.
DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. CFO Lewis Booth and global product development chief Derrick Kuzak -- key architects of the automaker's recovery -- will retire on April 1.
Booth, 63, will be succeeded by Bob Shanks, Ford's vice president and controller, the automaker said today in a statement. Kuzak, 60, will be replaced by Raj Nair, who is currently vice president of engineering for global product development.
Ford said Shanks, 59, and Nair, 47, will assume their new roles on April 1.
Booth has been mentioned as a possible successor to Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who will turn 67 in August.
Mulally offered no hint today about his retirement plans but said Ford has a deep executive bench.
"Ford is absolutely committed to a robust succession plan," Mulally said on a media conference call.
"Lewis Booth and Derrick Kuzak represent the very best of Ford and our culture and built a legacy of leadership, integrity and commitment to excellence that will benefit us for years to come," Bill Ford, the automaker's executive chairman, said in a statement. "Lewis and Derrick were absolutely integral to the comeback of Ford and they are retiring with our deepest respect and gratitude."
Ford has posted three straight years of profit following losses that totaled more than $30 billion from 2006 through 2008.
Mulally and succession
Mulally denied speculation that he is planning to retire by the end of next year. He came to Ford from Boeing Co. in 2006 as the automaker was sliding towards a $12.6 billion loss for that year.
"I read the news release very carefully, and I do not find my name in it," Mulally said of the company statement announcing the retirements of Booth and Kuzak. "I have no plans to retire and I'm absolutely thrilled and honored to serve Ford."
Mulally declined to say if he will be replaced eventually by Mark Fields, 51, Ford's president of the Americas, or Joe Hinrichs, 45, chief of Ford's operations in Asia and Africa. Each is considered a potential successor to Mulally, with Fields viewed as the leading candidate, people familiar with the deliberations have said.
"I have read that speculation also and as you know we don't comment on speculation," Mulally said of the possibility of Fields or Hinrichs replacing him as CEO. "Our plan at Ford is to have a very strong succession plan for every position, including my own."
In other changes, Stuart Rowley, 44, CFO of Ford's European operations, will succeed Shanks as vice president and controller.
Hau Thai-Tang, 45, currently executive director of global product programs and former chief engineer for the Mustang, was named vice president of engineering for global product development.
Booth joined Ford in 1978 as a financial analyst in product development in Europe.
He later led operations for Ford in South Africa and was president of Mazda Motor Corp., then a Ford affiliate, before being tapped to head Ford of Europe and the Premier Automotive Group, Ford's former family of European luxury brands.
Shortly after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered a global financial crisis, Booth was named CFO. In addition to a rebound in profits, he has overseen the dramatic reduction in Ford's debt levels and resumption of the automaker's dividend.
Major credit rating agencies have also raised Ford's credit rating, though it remains one notch below investment grade.
Kuzak, a soft-spoken, naturally shy executive, started his career with Ford in 1978 as a research engineer. He is more comfortable toiling long hours in the product development center than giving public presentations.
From the start, Mulally leaned heavily on Kuzak's global background, derived from 33 years with the company that includes stints as vice president of North America engineering and vice president of product development for Ford of Europe.
Kuzak was the architect behind the OneFord product development plan which will concentrate the majority of Ford's global vehicles on just five platforms.
Vehicles like the 2013 Ford Fusion and European Mondeo mid-size sedans will be virtually identical except for differences mandated by local regulations and with some different engines and transmissions. The same goes for the U.S. 2013 Escape crossover and its European sibling, the Kuga.
In 2008, Kuzak set an objective that Ford vehicles in every segment would be equal to or better than competitors in terms of fuel economy. The EcoBoost family of direct-injection, turbocharged engines also bears Kuzak's stamp.
He also pushed Ford to become a leader in the area of in-vehicle connectivity with systems such as Sync and the MyFord Touch infotainment systems. As a result, he was instrumental in forging relationships with key suppliers such as Microsoft.
New board member
Separately, Ford said Jon M. Huntsman Jr., former Republican candidate for president of the United States and ambassador to China, has been elected a director, effective immediately.
"Jon brings to Ford's board of directors extensive global knowledge and experience -- particularly in Asia with trade issues -- and operational experience gained as governor of Utah, a state that has grown jobs even during the economic crisis," said Bill Ford. "Jon understands the importance of strengthening the country's manufacturing base, which will contribute to our success going forward."
Huntsman, 51, was twice elected governor of Utah, serving from 2005 to 2009. His public service career began as a White House staff assistant to President Ronald Reagan and has since included appointments as deputy assistant secretary of commerce for Asia, U.S. ambassador to Singapore and deputy U.S. trade representative.
James B. Treece and Bloomberg contributed to this report.
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