When David Mondragon became president of Ford Motor Co. of Canada in 2008, Ford ranked a distant fourth in sales behind General Motors, Toyota and Chrysler with 13 percent of the market.
He leaves Ford-Canada in very good shape: undisputed No. 1 with 18 percent of the market, roughly 3 percentage points ahead of second-place GM.
Now Ford wants to put Mondragon's skills to work in the United States. Mondragon, 50, takes over Tuesday, Nov. 1, as U.S. general marketing manager of Ford and Lincoln. The California native replaces John Felice, 50, who moves to the general sales manager position. Both will report to Ken Czubay, 63, vice president of U.S. marketing sales and service.
In Canada, Mondragon (pronounced mahn-DRAG-on) took advantage of opportunities and breaks that came his way. In particular, GM's 2009 bankruptcy and the elimination of the Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer and Saab brands -- and their 200-plus dealers -- opened a door for Ford, said Toronto auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers.
"Ford, Chrysler, Hyundai and Kia have been feasting on" the customers orphaned by those GM brands, he said. Pontiac, in particular, was a much bigger market force in Canada than in the United States, he said.
Fuel-efficient new cars such as the Fiesta and Focus particularly aided Ford, DesRosiers said. Dealers say Mondragon's gift for connecting with people and his embrace of online marketing also helped him boost sales.
"He's one of the best communicators I've ever seen," says John Chisholm, owner of Rose City Ford in Windsor, Ontario. "He has a knack for remembering everybody's name. He knows how to make every person he meets feel important."
Says Bob Bentley, owner of Freedom Ford in Edmonton, Alberta: "He's very trustworthy. He's a man of his word."
Mondragon understands how the digital realm is changing the business.
"Canada is one of the most online societies in the world," Mondragon said during a recent TV interview. "Eighty percent of Canadians have Internet access; 90 percent have broadband; 51 percent of Canadians are on Facebook -- the highest penetration in the world."
Mondragon instituted monthly online town halls with employees and online chats with dealers, says Chisholm. In addition, he says, "David understands the importance of how Facebook and Twitter and social media help us communicate our message to consumers."
Mondragon joined Ford in 1985 as an entry-level administrative support staffer at the Edison, N.J. assembly plant. In his official corporate biography, Mondragon says, "I feel very fortunate that, since that very first day, I've been offered opportunities that continue to challenge and excite me."