Raj Nair leaves Ford over 'inappropriate behavior'

Raj Nair

UPDATED: 2/22/18 9:22 am ET -- adds Galhotra announcement

DETROIT -- Raj Nair, president of Ford Motor Co. in North America, has left the automaker after he was accused of "inappropriate behavior," Ford said Wednesday.

Ford, in a statement, said an internal investigation found that "certain behavior by Nair was inconsistent with the company's code of conduct." It did not divulge the nature of the complaint, which a spokesman said was submitted anonymously through a 24-hour company hotline. Ford said it had not previously received any such allegations against Nair.

Nair had been placed on leave during the investigation, which was conducted within the past few weeks and involved a small number of incidents, Ford said. His departure is effective immediately. On Thursday, Ford named Kumar Galhotra to replace Nair. 

CEO Jim Hackett said Ford "made this decision after a thorough review and careful consideration. Ford is deeply committed to providing and nurturing a safe and respectful culture and we expect our leaders to fully uphold these values." 

In the statement, Nair, 53, said, "I sincerely regret that there have been instances where I have not exhibited leadership behaviors consistent with the principles that the Company and I have always espoused. I continue to have the utmost faith in the people of Ford Motor Company and wish them continued success in the future."

Reached by phone at his home earlier Wednesday afternoon, Nair declined to comment to Automotive News when asked about his employment status with Ford.

CFRA Research analyst Efraim Levy, who recently lowered his rating of Ford shares to “hold” from “buy,” cited Nair's departure as another challenge for Ford. 

“While we believe the company has a deep enough management bench to replace Mr. Nair with little disruption,” Levy wrote, “the new leader will face the challenges of an industry that will see rapid change in the medium- and long-term, while sales volume contracts in the U.S. in 2018.” 

Before being named to his latest position in May 2017, Nair was Ford's head of product development and chief technical officer. He oversaw the launch of the 2016 GT supercar, aluminum-bodied F-150 and 50th-anniversary Mustang, among a plethora of other vehicles. Less than two weeks ago, Nair took delivery of the first GT produced for the 2018 model year.

Nair's tenure as product boss wasn't without controversy. The automaker twice had to lower mileage claims for its C-Max crossover and reimburse owners when the vehicle didn't achieve the rating originally advertised.

Nair started at Ford in 1987 as a body and assembly operations launch engineer and held various positions on more than 11 vehicle programs in 13 assembly plants, according to Ford's media website. He also worked on assignments in Europe, South America and Asia Pacific.

Days before Jim Hackett was named CEO, Ford last year awarded Nair a $5 million retention bonus that would vest in May of 2020.

You can reach Michael Martinez at mdmartinez@crain.com -- Follow Michael on Twitter: @MikeMartinez_AN

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