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President of Ford's Lincoln Unit Quits

July 20, 2002|From Bloomberg News

Ford Motor Co. said Brian Kelley resigned after nine months as president of the Lincoln Mercury division, the latest departure of an executive hired by ousted Chief Executive Jacques Nasser.

Kelley, 41, took over the Irvine-based luxury-car unit in October after joining the world's second-largest auto maker in June 1999. He held jobs developing Ford's Internet sales as part of Nasser's strategy to focus Ford as a consumer company.

Darryl Hazel, 54, takes over Lincoln Mercury on Aug. 1, said spokesman Jim Trainor.

Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. replaced Nasser as CEO in October and changed the Nasser strategy to focus the company on making cars and trucks and improving quality. The auto maker replaced Firestone tires linked to an estimated 271 U.S. highway deaths in accidents involving the tires, mostly on Ford Explorer sport utility vehicles, and had a $5.45-billion loss in 2001.

Executives hired by Nasser "were all brought in to transform the Ford culture into some global conglomerate that happened to build cars," said Maryann Keller, an independent auto analyst and consultant. "In the new Ford, these people carry the baggage of being handpicked by Jacques Nasser to carry out a revolution."

Kelley, who is leaving to become chief executive of relocation and logistic services provider SIRVA, said he didn't feel pressured to depart Ford.

"It's a good chance to be a CEO of a good growth opportunity," he said in an interview.

His power diminished in April when Ford division President Jim O'Connor was appointed group vice president in charge of North American marketing, sales and service, which includes responsibilities for Lincoln Mercury.

The division also was separated from the group of Ford's European brands called Premier Auto Group and returned under the Ford umbrella.

As part of its overall restructuring plan announced in January, the auto maker has been trying to revitalize the flagging division. Through June, Lincoln sales are down 16.6%, and Mercury sales are down 18.3% for the year.

The Lincoln Continental, Mercury Cougar and Mercury Villager were dropped and new products added, such as the restyled Lincoln Navigator and upcoming Lincoln Aviator sport utility vehicle.

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