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Scheele tipped to replace Nasser

Jac Nasser, who transformed the Ford family business with the acquisitions of Land Rover and Volvo, is under mounting pressure following the company's announcement of a third-quarter loss of £335m.

Stories of a rift between chairman Bill Clay Ford and Mr Nasser are denied but former Jaguar chairman Nick Scheele, running North American operations, is being tipped as a successor to the chief executive. Mr Scheele's management style is no doubt more agreeable to Mr Ford.

But Mr Scheele is also tough. He has undertaken a restructuring programme which will see the retirement of five senior executives by the end of the year.

They include Scotsman Jim Donaldson, 58, Ford's vice president responsible for global business development who was a lieutenant of Mr Nasser. They share a reputation for being blunt and abrasive.

During his brief term as Ford of Europe's president, Mr Donaldson scrapped the Cologne-built Scorpio as he tried unsuccessfully to staunch mounting losses. He was replaced as head of Ford's European operations by Mr Scheele.

By liberating space at the German plant, Ford helped cut six months off the new Fiesta programme, a factor in ending car production at Dagenham.

Mr Donaldson negotiated the joint diesel engine venture deal with PSA Peugeot-Citroen, which led to Dagenham becoming Ford's global diesel centre of excellence.

His decision to move Ford of Europe's headquarters from Brentwood, Essex, to Cologne, was unpopular among some managers.

If Mr Nasser fails to ride the storm, his possible successors include Wolfgang Reitzle (chairman of Ford's Premier Automotive Group) and Peter Pestillo (former Ford head of staff, now running the Visteon components company).

Ford's chief financial officer Martin Inglis claims the beleaguered Mr Nasser has a management team which “is working with, and for, Jac”. Mr Inglis, who is British, was landed with the unenviable task of detailing the company's first two consecutive quarterly losses since 1992.

Over-emphasis on internet-related projects is one of the criticisms levelled at Mr Nasser, who has overseen an accelerating decline in fortunes for the world's second largest car company during the past 12 months.

This time last year the same period generated a £662m profit but now Ford's cash reserves have plummeted from £15.3bn to just over £10bn.

There appears to be no respite for Ford as the post-September 11 trading slump compounds the US market malaise. Sustaining what one insider described as “an anti-Jac media feeding frenzy” Forbes, the influential US magazine, claimed the Ford family has lost confidence in Mr Nasser.

It said senior Ford executives believe Mr Nasser would “probably be ousted before the year is out”.

Issues threatening to bring down Mr Nasser, previously seen as an expansionist visionary committed to making Ford the world's leading consumer company, run wide and deep.

They are dominated by the costly (£2bn and counting) dispute with Bridgestone and its Firestone subsidiary over liability for recalling 13m faulty tyres fitted to Ford Explorers following a series of fatal accidents.

Analysts say Mr Nasser's focus on core automotive interests became blurred by seeking to become a “holistic automotive provider” with the purchase of Kwik-Fit and investment in the Danish Think electric car project.

His working relationship, or lack of it, with Bill Clay Ford, allegedly deteriorated to the point that the board insisted on a more unified chairman/chief executive management approach. The Fords, who hold 40% of the stock, will always have their way.



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