Wolfgang Reitzle has again raided the talent pool at his former employer, BMW AG, this time for a Lincoln chief designer.
Gerry McGovern, 42, former director of design for the Rover Group's Land Rover division, will fill the job. It is a new position in Ford Motor Co.'s design organization.
The new hire represents Premier Automotive Group chief Reitzle's effort to craft a more global image for Lincoln vehicles, particularly sport-utilities. Reitzle has not made a decision on whether or when Lincolns will be imported into Europe. But some observers have speculated Lincoln could contribute sport-utilities to the European Premier mix.
'Land Rover people have a special talent in giving the off-road category some class,' said John Lawson, an automotive analyst for Salomon Smith Barney in London. 'It's quite a nice school for Lincoln to be recruiting from.'
Director of design is a new title at Lincoln. From that post McGovern will try to direct Lincoln away from the soft and plush design style traditionally favored by American luxury car buyers, to the cleaner, more performance-oriented European sensibility.
Before now, design duties for Lincoln vehicles were handled by Ford's team of corporate designers. Cars such as the Lincoln Town Car and the Continental were styled by the large-car design group; the Lincoln Navigator was designed by the truck-design group.
By hiring a designer like McGovern for Lincoln, Reitzle is moving to create distinct identities for the brands in his luxury-car group, comprised of Lincoln, Jaguar, Aston Martin and Volvo.
Reitzle was named to head the newly-formed group in March. Since then, he has moved quickly to put his stamp on the organization. McGovern is the fourth top executive from BMW AG, including Reitzle himself, to join the Premier group.
They include Deiter Laxy, former managing director for BMW's Rover Group unit in Germany. He was recruited by Reitzle as senior vice president of global marketing for Volvo. Also joining was Vic Doolan, president of BMW North America for six years, during which time he presided over a 69 percent increase in sales. He joined Premier in July as executive director of North American marketing and distribution strategy.
McGovern will work with a team of product developers based in Dearborn, Michigan, and with a team of brand marketers based at Lincoln's Irvine, California, headquarters. It is the clearest definition yet of Ford's effort to forge a direct alliance between product people and marketers, Lincoln spokesman Jim Trainer said.
McGovern's is the latest in a string of high-level departures from Land Rover. Among those who have left the company this summer are Peter Kinnaird, formerly managing director of Land Rover UK; Jim Campbell, formerly Land Rover UK marketing director; and Charlie Hughes, formerly president of Land Rover North America Inc. Those three executives all left in June.
Meanwwhile, the former managing director of Land Rover UK, Peter Kinnaird, has joined IM Group as director, overseas operations. IM Group, the company behind Subaru and Isuzu in the UK, recently expanded into France with the Isuzu Trooper. Its international car franchises also include Daihatsu and Daewoo, and it is represented in Sweden, Finland, the Baltic states and Ireland. Kinnaird will report IM Group's Chairman and Chief Executive, Bob Edmiston.