DETROIT -- A recent e-mail from Mary Ann Wright to an acquaintance ended like this: "Now stop bugging me. I have a company to save."
That company is Collins & Aikman, the troubled supplier of instrument panels, convertible tops and plastic trim. Collins & Aikman has been in Chapter 11 reorganization since May, when it ran out of cash because of high material costs, lower revenue and a senior management team that had little auto industry experience.
Late last week U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes approved employment contracts for Wright's and several other open positions at Collins & Aikman, of Troy, Mich.
Wright, executive vice president of commercial and program management, will be paid $425,000 a year and get an annual 50 percent bonus, according to court documents.
Until she resigned from Ford Motor Co. in November, citing personal reasons, Wright was Ford's director of sustainable mobility technologies and hybrid vehicle programs. She led the team that saved the Ford Escape Hybrid and turned it into a success story at Ford. She was the vehicle's high-profile champion.
To help save Collins & Aikman, Wright will need many of the skills she honed during her 17 years at Ford. She will need to straighten out multilayered problems and build a strong team, said Jim Hall, an analyst at AutoPacific in Southfield, Mich.
"She understands the car side of the business and can help smooth things over," he said. "Collins & Aikman having someone who's been on the OEM side will help."