Deborah Aronson will miss living and working in Vietnam. But that is OK. She plans to return there to retire.
Aronson became managing director of Ford Malaysia in June, succeeding Richard Canny, who became president of Ford Argentina. For two years she had been general manager of Ford Vietnam.
'Ford Malaysia is three or four times larger than the Vietnam market. The infrastructure is developed, but my heart still lies in Vietnam,' says Aronson, 46. 'We had such a challenge. The company was so fragile in Vietnam; now it is strong.'
Ford Malaysia, based in Kuala Lumpur, has 550 employees. There are 38 dealerships and service centers. By contrast, Ford Vietnam has 200 employees and 12 dealerships and service centers. And the challenges will not be the same.
For example, before her marketing team in Vietnam could recruit dealers and customers to Ford, Aronson often had to give them driving lessons. She also initiated a countrywide traffic safety campaign because intersections in major cities have no rules, with the boldest walker or driver proceeding first and others following.
'Malaysia is an entirely new challenge,' she says. 'You have the national car company, Proton, that dominates the market. You have Toyota with extensive manufacturing facilities, plus Volvo, Ford and other international manufacturers. The question is how Ford can be more relevant to this industrialized nation?'
Aronson started her career as a medical social worker in San Diego, Califor-nia, before opting for a business career. She obtained a master's degree in business administration from the Uni-versity of San Francisco in California and began working for Ford Motor Co. in 1985. She held a number of posts, many of them involving overseas contacts.