As Jim Farley prepares to run Ford of Europe, staff in sales and marketing at the automaker’s headquarters in Dearborn are getting ready to greet current Europe boss Stephen Odell, who will replace Farley as global head of sales, service and marketing on Jan. 1.
The change says a lot about Ford today.
Farley is considered a marketing wunderkind. But I don’t think Odell is a step down as marketing boss.
I got to know Odell when he ran marketing at Mazda while I was in Tokyo as Automotive News’ Asia editor. To be blunt, he’s sharp.
More on what he will bring to the job in a bit. But, first, consider the implications of Ford being able to make this move and, I bet, not miss a beat.
For decades, Ford was known for the large number of talented executives it possessed. Then came CEO Jac Nasser. He got rid of many executives, and his abrasive style prompted others to decide to leave. By the end of the Nasser era, Ford’s talent pool was very nearly depleted. If a senior executive left suddenly, you wondered whether there was anyone equally talented to step in as a replacement.
Ford’s talent pool is deep again.
Mazda-fication of Ford
In addition, Odell’s arrival is further confirmation of the Mazda-fication of Ford.
Odell will be joining a pack of former Mazda executives: Ford CEO Mark Fields; CFO Bob Shanks; Moray Callum, vice president of design; Burt Jordan, vice president of global vehicle and powertrain purchasing & supplier diversity; and Gideon Wolthers, director of business strategy and corporate development. In Europe, Mazda alumni include Joe Bakaj, vice president of product development. And I’m probably forgetting a few.
In the 1970s, ambitious Ford executives wanted an assignment at Ford of Europe in London. Henry Ford II liked London and went there often. Being there improved the odds of catching Hank the Deuce’s eye and getting promoted.
Today, a year or more in Hiroshima for Mazda is a good thing to have on your Ford resume.
Back to Odell. Among the mandates he will bring to Ford’s sales and marketing operations, I predict, will be this: Don’t fake concern for the customer.