The task ahead for Booth is daunting. In the three months to the end of June, Ford of Europe lost £332m. Despite an aggressive programme of cost-cutting measures, and well-received new model launches, the company remains stalled. Many blame a corporate inability to react quickly enough to competition initiatives. Ford has been late to market with common rail diesels and a mid-sized MPV.
As a result of the difficulties, next year's Focus replacement will be one of the most important European cars in its history. Launched after the new Golf and Astra, dealers will be under pressure to shift as many as possible.
Booth became president of Mazda a year ago, and was not expecting to change his job so soon. “Unfortunately a few days ago the president of Ford of Europe unexpectedly resigned,” he said. “I don't believe this is a time for tearing up plans. It is a time to implement plans the team has put in place.”
A 38-year veteran of Mazda, Hisakazu Imaki, 60, will take over the running of the Japanese brand.
Meanwhile press speculation is growing that Leach will oust Giancarlo Boschetti as Fiat Auto chief executive. It seems an unlikely move, though, as Boschetti has only been in the job a year.