TOKYO -- A month ago, Lewis Booth joined Mazda Motor Corp., as senior adviser in charge of corporate strategy. Two months from now, he will become Mazda's president.
He succeeds Mark Fields, who will return to Ford Motor Co. as head of the Premier Automotive Group.
At a press conference here introducing Booth as his successor, Fields, 41, declined to answer questions about Premier.
"It's premature to make any comments about my new position. Between now and the shareholders meeting" in late June when the Mazda management changes will be ratified, Fields said, "I'll be focused on Mazda."
Before joining Mazda, Booth, 53, was president for two years of Ford Asia Pacific, Africa & Technical Staffs, where he had operational responsibility for South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and India, and for developing Ford's strategy in the Asia-Pacific region.
One of his duties was mapping Ford's plans for China. "I will continue to develop Ford's China strategy in my new role," Booth said.
He was born in Liverpool, England. In the late 1990s, he spent two and a half years as group managing director of South Africa Motor Corp., of which Ford then owned 45 percent. SAMCOR assembled and sold Ford and Mazda vehicles in South Africa.
Ford owns a controlling 33.4 percent of Mazda.
In his four years as Mazda's president, Fields grew as a manager. He no longer peppers his conversation with marketing jargon he picked up at Harvard Business School. He limits himself to one Diet Coke a day. And he is at ease working through an interpreter, pausing for his comments to be translated at appropriate intervals.
But Fields remains a snazzy dresser who favors double-breasted suits and retains the nervous energy of the bright New Jersey kid who worked his way through Rutgers University.