DETROIT - As part of a series of top-level executive changes, Ford of Europe is getting a new chief strategist.
Gerhard Klein, 50, currently director of finance at Ford of Europe, will replace his boss Henry Wallace as chief financial officer and vice president of European strategic planning. Wallace, 52, will become vice president of Asia-Pacific operations.
The change, which becomes effective 1 January, follows a series of top-level cutbacks at Ford. Seven vice presidents have announced plans to retire at the end of the year. Among them is Charles Szuluk, president of Visteon Automotive Systems, Ford's parts operation. Szuluk planned the transition of Ford's various parts divisions into a unified, stand-alone supplier. His job was to gain more non-Ford customers. A former IBM executive, Szuluk joined Ford in 1988 as a manufacturing manager for the electronics division.
The moves come as Jacques Nasser puts his executive team in place in preparation for his ascension to the Ford presidency on 1 January. The replacement of Wallace by Klein is the only part of Nasser's reshuffling with a direct impact on Ford of Europe.
Once their replacements take office, the automaker will have 40 vice presidents, down from 45 today. Over the past decade, Ford's top management has fluctuated from 35 to 45 executives.
The corporate downsizing comes in the wake of Ford's decision last month to 'invite' 2,000 white-collar managers to accept early retirement or buyouts. Ford took pains to emphasize that the seven retirements were voluntary.
According to company spokeswoman Francine Romine-MacBride, the executives were asked whether they could stay on another two or three years to ease the transition to the Nasser regime.
Among the executives taking early retirement were several key players in Chairman Alex Trotman's Ford 2000 reorganization:
Robert Transou, 58, Ford's group vice president of manufacturing, led the transition team that planned the company's worldwide realignment in 1994. He also led the effort to standardize Ford's worldwide line-up of powertrains.
David Scott, 58, Ford's top public relations executive, masterminded the effort to explain Ford 2000 to middle and lower management. It was Scott's job to minimize the confusion that would accompany such a major shakeup.
Robert Kramer, 59, is vice president of human resources. A longtime Trotman confidante, Kramer's job was to identify the most promising young executives - dubbed 'high-pots,' for high potential - and put them on Ford's fast track.
Kenneth Dabrowski, 55, is vice president of quality. During the planning of Ford 2000, Dabrowski helped develop Ford's product strategy for 'world' cars. For a time, he ran Ford's commercial truck vehicle center, then took his current job when Ford eliminated that operation in 1996.
John Huston, 55, is vice president of powertrain operations. He oversaw development of a new generation of diesel engines that will be introduced to the European market.
John Martin Jr., 62, is Ford's general counsel. He joined Ford's legal staff as a senior attorney in 1970.