LONDON - How did Wolfgang Reitzle take the news that his friend and boss Jacques Nasser had been fired?
'It came as a surprise,' said the Premier Automotive Group chairman. 'But when I see the new team I'm very pleased to work with Nick [Scheele]. He's very experienced in turnaround situations.'
The first reaction of many in Europe was that Premier would be dismantled and that Reitzle would soon leave for any one of a number of other carmakers that would love to employ him.
But the former BMW executive insists that won't happen.
'Yes, I was hired by Jac Nasser and I understand that when a CEO goes everyone says, 'Oh wow, how will people close to that person be affected?' But I'm extremely relaxed. I was loyal to the CEO and that will not change.
'Look at the BMW situation - after Bernd Pischetsrieder was named CEO, I was loyal to him for several years. Things like this happen in professional business.'
Nasser hired Reitzle in April 1999 and created a new organization to accommodate him. The Premier division grouped Volvo, Jaguar, Lincoln and Aston Martin. Land Rover was later added after Ford acquired it from BMW.
But Premier has been come under scrutiny of late - along with other Nasser initiatives. Some critics inside the company say Premier diverted attention from the Ford brand. But Reitzle said Nasser's departure would have no impact on his luxury-brand group.
'I can't imagine it would,' he said. 'It will not be less important than before - in fact the opposite. We will not be changing a convincing plan.
'Volvo is very profitable, Land Rover is exactly on schedule, Jaguar will have doubled its sales and Lincoln is only affected by the downturn in North America.'
Asked if his bosses reassured him before Nasser's ouster, Reitzle said: 'That's exactly what happened.'
He added: 'Yes, Jac was instrumental in forming Premier Automotive Group - he was CEO. But everything Jac did was not a failure and everything he did won't be changed. That would not be wise.'
Reitzle said he is glad the turmoil at the top of Ford is over.
'When you read in the newspaper every day about some management changes it doesn't help,' he said. 'The press played a key role in accelerating the situation. The board had no choice but to react.'