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Ford Oz boss off to China

Fast Ford: Ford Australia president and CEO Marin Burela (left) and Ford Asia Pacific Africa president Joe Hinrichs launch the new Ford Ranger at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney.

New president for Ford Australia as Burela gets new role in huge Chinese market

Ford logo27 Oct 2010

FORD Australia is set to get a new boss after the reassignment of president and CEO Marin Burela to the fast-growing Chinese market next month after just two years in the chair.

Mr Burela has been given the task of steering Ford’s Chinese joint venture with state-owned Changan Automobile – China’s fourth biggest car-maker – at a time when the Chinese motor industry is exploding with growth.

A latecomer to the Chinese market, Ford has spent $1.3 billion in the past year in China, where it is also set to build a new engine plant to keep up with rocketing demand for its cars in a market that last year replaced the United States as the world’s biggest with 13.5 million motor vehicles sold – a figure that some experts believe could soar to 35 million units a year within a decade.

An Australian engineer from Ford’s Aussie heartland in Geelong, Mr Burela was hurriedly appointed to the Australian role in October 2008 after the sudden resignation of American Bill Osborne just seven months into the job.

 center imageLeft: New Ford Australia president and CEO Robert Graziano. Below: Departing president Marin Burela.

Now, he will be replaced by current chairman and CEO of Ford China Robert Graziano whose role in China will be filled by Ford Asia Pacific and Africa president Joe Hinrichs – a move that Ford says reflects the growing importance of the Chinese market and the company’s integration of the company’s regional and Chinese operations.

Together, Mr Burela and Mr Hinrichs will be tasked with reeling in the lead in the Chinese market of General Motors and its partner, SAIC, headed up by Australian Kevin Wale, a former Holden executive.

And one of Mr Burela’s main weapons will be the Ford Fiesta, which he helped to develop in his job prior to returning to Australia, as Ford’s line executive for small cars.

Another weapon could be a new small car that is reportedly under development by Ford Australia, which developed a similar, Fiesta-based cheap light hatchback, the Figo, for India. The Figo has helped to drive up Ford’s Indian sales by 188 per cent this year, and is now earmarked for export from India to 50 countries.

Chinese reports suggest Mr Burela’s new charge, Changan Ford Mazda Automobile Co Ltd (CFMA), is also keen to get involved in the Indian market with Ford.

Mr Burela declined to comment on export potential between Ford in Australia and China, saying he needed to “get up there and see what it is all about first”.

He said he was excited and humbled to be offered the privilege of the “very important new role”.

Mr Burela said that when he returned to Australia in 2008, he had intended to make his stay at the helm at Ford Australia’s Melbourne headquarters a lengthy one, and had only recently moved his daughter back from school in the UK – where he was previously based – to rejoin the family in Australia.

During his time with Ford Australia, Mr Burela oversaw a return to profitability, turning a record $274 million loss in 2008 into a $13 million profit in 2009, but also a slip in market share, from 10.3 per cent in 2008 to 9.4 per cent today.

Mr Burela said the size of Ford’s market share in Australia did not concern him so much as the “quality of share” on which Ford could build in this country.

He said he was proud that Ford Australia had been “positioned for strength” in Australia, with an eye to “profitable growth”.

Mr Burela said he had no regrets about his time in the Ford Australia hot seat, saying Ford’s decision to scrap plans for local production of the next Focus was the right one, and that he was proud that Ford had seen fit to invest in a new casting plant at Geelong to secure the company’s operation in that region and also Ford’s engineering centre that was producing global models such as the T6 Ranger pick-up.

“We are in a good place,” he said. “I am quietly bullish about the future for Ford Australia.”

Mr Burela said Ford Australia was set for big things in 2011, with models such as the Territory diesel, liquid petroleum injection Falcon and EcoBoost four-cylinder Falcon to be introduced, as well as fresh new imported models including the next generation Focus and Ranger.

In his career that started with Ford Australia in 1984, Mr Burela has also held senior management positions at Jaguar and Land Rover, where he was responsible for the group's manufacturing operations and was appointed to the board of Land Rover in 2000. He was also appointed to the board of Jaguar Land Rover in 2002.

He joined Ford of Europe in 2004 to lead the development of Ford’s global small-car product portfolio, including the new Fiesta that is currently being rolled out in around the world, before heading to Asia Pacific and African nations.

Mr Burela said the company would be in good hands with Mr Graziano, an American with whom he said he had worked on the introduction of the Ford Fiesta into production in Nanjing, China.

He said Mr Graziano had a solid understanding of the motor industry, having working in areas such as product planning and sales and marketing with both Ford and Mazda on his way to his current role as Ford’s top executive in China.

Mr Burela dismissed concerns that Ford was rotating executives through the Australian presidency too fast, describing the executives as “connected” and “interchangeable”.

Before Mr Burela’s appointment, the previous two local Ford chiefs, Tom Gorman and Bill Osborne, resigned from the role to pursue other business interests.

This year, Ford sales in Australia are up four per cent in a market up 14.5 per cent. In September, it was outsold by importer Mazda for the first time. Coincidentally, Mazda will be one of Mr Burela’s new partners in the Changan joint venture.

The Ford-Mazda-Changan tie up is one of a number of joint ventures by the Chinese company, which was founded in 1862 to sell guns.

It built its first car – a Jeep knock-off – in 1958, and moved into mini cars in 1983. It has other partnerships with Suzuki and Mitsubishi. It also holds a 30 percent stake in Jiangling Motors Corp, a major Chinese light commercial vehicle maker.

Ford expects 70 per cent of its growth in the next 10 years to come from its Asia Pacific and Africa region, with most coming from China.

So far this year, Ford and its partners have sold 419,073 vehicles in China, an increase of 40 per cent on the first nine months of last year.

Ford’s Chinese line-up includes Focus, Fiesta, Mondeo and S-Max MPV, with Edge and Kuga on the agenda for the future line-up.

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