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Ford’s new Europe chief, Jim Farley, tasked with accelerating turnaround

Ford's new Europe chief, Jim Farley, tasked with accelerating turnaroun

Ford said new Europe chief Jim Farley is tasked with accelerating the automaker’s turnaround in the region, where it expects to lose $1.2 billion this year.

Farley will be responsible for achieving profitable growth in Europe “through an unprecedented focus on new products, a strong brand and increased cost efficiency,” Ford said in a statement today.

Farley, 53, is swapping jobs with Stephen Odell, 59, who has been Ford of Europe president since 2010. Farley will move to Ford’s European headquarters in Cologne, Germany, while Odell, 59, will move to the U.S. to take Farley’s role as the automaker’s global sales and marketing boss.

The executives start their new roles on Jan. 1. Both will continue to report to Ford CEO Mark Fields.

The shift will give Farley, 52, his first shot at directly running one of Ford’s regional operations.

Farley joined Ford in 2007 following a meteoric career at Toyota where he was general manager of Lexus and instrumental in launching the Scion brand in the U.S. At Ford, Farley has pushed Ford to become a leader in digital marketing, especially social media prelaunch campaigns for vehicles.

“Jim has done an excellent job improving our brand image around the world,” Fields said in the statement. “Jim’s commitment and passion for building the Ford and Lincoln brands have enabled us to connect with customers in new and innovative ways. He will have an opportunity to apply that same passion to build on the success of our products today in Europe and grow our business in the Middle East and Africa regions.”

Ford’s European division is undertaking an aggressive product rollout, with 10 launches this year and 25 over five years.

Ford of Europe, along with the rest of the region’s carmakers, has struggled as the economy has undergone a lengthy recession. The company’s third-quarter losses in the region widened to $439 million amid weakness in Russia. Ford no longer expects European auto demand will return to prerecession sales levels — even by 2020.

Ford lost $1.6 billion in Europe last year and in September withdrew its forecast of a 2015 profit. The company expects its European operations to lose $1.2 billion on a pretax basis in 2014 and now projects the red ink will be reduced in 2015 because of capacity cuts.

Fields said Ford is “poised to profitably grow as the region emerges from a long downturn.”

Ford said Odell has been instrumental in leading the development and implementation of the company’s European transformation plan and the strategic development of the company’s Middle East and Africa operations.

In his new role, he will focus on continuing to build the Ford and Lincoln brands globally through “innovative new digital communications and transforming the retail experience for customers,” Ford said.

Odell joined Ford in 1980 as a graduate trainee for Ford of Britain, becoming vice president for marketing and sales at Jaguar in 1997. He had executive sales and marketing posts at Mazda and Ford of Europe before becoming CEO of Volvo in 2008. He joined Mazda Motor North America as a vice president of marketing and sales in 2000, the same year Fields was named president and CEO of the Japanese automaker.

Odell was instrumental in turning around Volvo and Mazda by reinvigorating their product lines, improving their brands and addressing cost and capacity issues, Fields said. “He brings a wealth of global experience in marketing, sales and service to his new assignment,” Fields said.