Marking yet another step by the U.S. automaker to prepare for the eventual exit of Chief Executive Alan Mulally, Ford just announced that some of its younger executives were promoted to key roles.
The most important decision could be by far the naming of Moray Callum, 54, as global design chief. Callum, currently the head of design for North and South America, replaces 16-year Ford veteran J Mays, 59, who is retiring.
Ford also named new executives to lead labor affairs and North American manufacturing, and added another corporate officer. The changes are effective on January 1. More than half of Ford’s 20 senior executives have been replaced, promoted or given additional duties since early 2012. The accelerated pace of change in the top ranks comes as the No. 2 U.S. automaker could be laying the groundwork for the post-Mulally era.
Mulally, 68, is credited with inspiring a cultural change that helped Ford reverse its losses and avert a federal bailout in 2009. Late last year, Ford named Mark Fields, 52, as chief operating officer, a move seen as putting the longtime Ford veteran on track to be CEO. This shift triggered other management changes deeper in the company.
“The bold and sophisticated design language that J Mays pioneered will be visible for years to come in Ford vehicles and the auto industry overall,” Fields said in a statement.
During his 16 years at Ford, Mays led the Ford global design teams that developed the look for the Fusion mid-size sedan, Mustang sports car and F-150 pickup truck. Mays joined Ford in 1997 as vice president of design and was named group vice president in 2003.
Also on Tuesday, Ford said North American manufacturing chief Jim Tetreault was retiring after 25 years at Ford. Bruce Hettle will replace him. Marty Mulloy, head of labor affairs, is also retiring after 34 years at Ford, and will be replaced by Bill Dirksen.
Ford also named Steven Armstrong president of Ford South America and made him the company’s 42nd corporate officer. He had been head of the automaker’s Brazil operations.
The automaker’s focus has also shifted in recent years to managing its growth. It is more aggressively expanding overseas, particularly in China, and trying to overhaul its upscale Lincoln brand, which has lagged its peers this year.