| Ford: Grooming his second-in-command (Reuters)
Detroit, Nov. 15: The Ford Motor Co. on Thursday expanded the duties of David W. Thursfield, one of its top executives, reinforcing speculation that Thursfield is being groomed to eventually take the No. 2 spot at the company under its chairman and chief executive William Clay Ford Jr.
Ford’s foreign businesses were consolidated under Thursfield, 57, who was promoted from group vice-president to executive vice-president and named president of international operations. The company also named James J. Padilla, 56, an executive vice-president as well as president of North American operations. He had been group vice-president for those operations.
The moves solidified Thursfield and Padilla as the top Ford executives besides William Clay Ford Jr. and Nicholas V. Scheele, the company’s chief operating officer. It also separated the company’s automotive operations into two clear reporting groups.
“By elevating the leaders of the company’s two automotive units, we’re further sharpening the focus on our core business,” William Clay Ford Jr. said.
As part of his expanded duties, Thursfield will oversee the company’s Premier Automotive Group, the luxury unit that includes Volvo, Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover and is considered crucial to the company’s turnaround plan. Thursfield will also oversee another Ford unit, Mazda, in his new capacity.
The additional duties make Thursfield a busy man. He already serves as chairman and chief executive of Ford of Europe and oversees operations in the Asia Pacific and South America. And he has a prominent role in the entire company as head of global purchasing.
Much speculation has focused on the increasing prominence of Thursfield, if for no other reason than analysts see him as a tough-minded cost cutter at a time when Ford Motor desperately needs such a person. The company, which lost $ 5.5 billion last year, reiterated Thursday that its fourth quarter net income will be less than the 12 cents a share it earned in the third quarter.
That was not a surprise to Wall Street, but Stephen Girsky, an auto industry analyst with Morgan Stanley, said it was further evidence that Ford Motor’s restructuring program was failing to gain traction.
“For a company to earn less in the fourth quarter than in the third quarter is very unusual in this business,” he said. Car companies generally incur their heaviest expenses for new vehicles in the third quarter, while the fourth quarter is one of the strongest periods of the year for sales.
In contrast to turnaround efforts at Chrysler and Nissan, both of which showed quick results, “this plan is slow in getting started,” Girsky added.