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New sales and marketing chief for Ford Oz

Moving on: Ford Australia has made two major changes to its senior management team after the departure of Beth Donovan and Russell Christophers.

Ford Australia rings the changes as senior executives depart

Ford logo5 Dec 2011

FORD Australia has made major changes to its senior management to fill gaps left by two executives, with vice-president sales, marketing and service Beth Donovan returning to the United States and product development director Russell Christophers retiring.

Ms Donovan, who held the role since September 2008, has been replaced by another American, Brad Brownell, a 24-year veteran of Ford whose previous role was general manager of Ford’s US central marketing area, based in Dallas.

The change was announced today by Ford Australia president and CEO Bob Graziano, who said Mr Brownell brought with him a vast resource of knowledge from various senior roles.

“A large portion of his career at Ford has been directly involved with dealers,” Mr Graziano said.

Mr Brownell, who joined Ford in 1987 and served in a variety of senior management positions in customer service and global product marketing, told GoAuto that he had now spent 60 days in Australia, listening and watching.

He said he did not envisage major changes in the way Ford marketed its cars in Australia.

 center imageLeft: Outgoing Ford senior managers Beth Donovan and Russell Christophers. Below: Brad Brownell

“I believe we have got the strongest line-up in our history, when you take a look at small medium and large cars, utilities and trucks,” he said.

“My role will be to get that message out so the average consumer understands that we have a more than competitive line-up – in fact, best in class in many key areas.

“So you won’t see a dramatic change in how we go to market. I just think there are some opportunities to ensure that the average consumer knows that we are relevant in the market place.”

Ms Donovan returned to the US about a month ago without fanfare to become retail marketing manager at Ford’s head office in Dearborn, Michigan.

In the three years that Ms Donovan was at the helm of Ford Australia marketing, the company’s share slipped from 10.3 per cent to 9.1 per cent.

Mr Christophers – an engineer described by Ford as the ‘father of the Territory’ for his part in the development of the Falcon-based SUV – will retire on December 31 after 39 years with the company.

Mr Christophers was not only product development director but also E8 vehicle line director, making him responsible for Falcon and its main derivative, the Territory.

Mr Graziano said Mr Christophers had been a key driving force behind many Ford vehicles.

“One of his most significant contributions to the success of Ford Australia and the region was as the chief program manager of the Territory, followed by the position of E8 vehicle line director,” he said.

“In many ways, Russell is actually the father of the Territory. He led the launch of Territory from a product development perspective as well as other E8 product, most notably the FG Falcon.”

Mr Christophers went to head office in Detroit with then Ford Australia president Geoff Polites to ‘sell’ the Territory project ahead of its program approval.

He joined Ford in 1973 as a mechanical engineering graduate, holding positions across truck engineering, product planning for Australia and the Asia-Pacific, program management, body engineering, test operations, prototype build and vehicle engineering.

He was also the product planning manager for Ford New Zealand and a key member of the Ford Asia Pacific team based in Melbourne working with Mazda on regional vehicles for Asia-Pacific and Australia.

“We wish Russell and his wife Anne all the best for their future and thank him for his significant contribution to the Ford Motor Company,” Mr Graziano said.

Mr Christophers is planning to spend much of his retirement indulging in his passion for windsurfing and snowboarding.

His roles at Ford will be split, with Ford Asia Pacific and Africa (APA) engineering director Jim Holland becoming product development representative on the Australian operating committee, and David Wilkinson assuming the position of E8 vehicle line director.

Mr Wilkinson will report to APA truck and large vehicles programs director Gary Boes.

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