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Polites on another rescue mission

In demand: Former Ford Oz president Geoff Polites has been named CEO of Jaguar and Land Rover.

Ride into sunset takes a new turn as Geoff Polites named Land Rover and Jaguar boss

Land Rover logo27 Jul 2005

FORMER Ford Australia president, Geoff Polites, admits he is coming in from the cold after being named last week as the new chief executive officer of Jaguar and Land Rover.

It is the second promotion for Mr Polites, 57, since he left Australia in March 2004 to work for Ford of Europe.

Within seven months he moved from vice-president of European sales staff to his current role of vice-president marketing, sales and service.

He takes the reins at Jaguar and Land Rover, two struggling brands within Ford’s Premier Automotive Group (PAG), on September 1 – but denies he is being fast-tracked for a more senior role within Ford’s global empire.

"At my age you don’t get fast-tracked!" Mr Polites told GoAuto last week.

"I thought that this (Ford of Europe job) would be it for me. I thought that I’d come over and do this job for four years or so and then ride off into the sunset.

"But this opportunity’s come up. Now my plan is to ride this one off into the sunset.

"That was also my plan when I joined Ford of Australia, to be honest."Mr Polites cautioned that although he had built a successful career with the Blue Oval brand, which started in 1970 as a product planner for Ford Australia, it was "unwise to make long-term plans in this industry".

But his role in turning Ford Australia’s fortunes around after the debacle involving the AU Series Falcon in the late 1990s has earned him a reputation within the automotive giant as a Mr-Fix-It.

"Few people know how to run a car business like Geoff," said Ford of Europe and PAG executive vice-president, Mark Fields, in a statement last week.

"He proved his leadership and business acumen at Ford Australia, where he led a significant turnaround based on combining an emphasis on new product development with strategic and structural re-alignment.

"More recently in Europe he has seen through the highly successful market introduction of the new Ford Focus."Mr Polites will move from Cologne, Germany, to the Midlands in England, close to both Land Rover and Jaguar operations. He will report directly to Mr Fieldsand will succeed Joe Greenwell, 54, who last week was promoted to the newly created role of government affairs vice-president for PAG and Ford of Europe.

He said he was looking forward to new challenges, but had had little chance to think through some of the bigger issues facing Land Rover or Jaguar. He is charged with continuing the progress made through new product in recent times with Land Rover, and in revitalising the Jaguar business.

"I’ll wait till I get there – I have no conception of their business plan or anything else," he said. "Effectively, I’m coming in from the outside. "It’s a complete shift."Mr Polites said he expected a steep learning curve in terms of the people andthe processes involved with the two British brands, but would utilise business tools he acquired at Ford Australia.

"It’s really just a learning curve on the people and the business plan," he said. "I have my own method of operating and my own metrics ... the tools we used at Ford of Australia. I’ll use the same structure and methodology.

"It seemed to work okay there and we had a really good team ethos. But I alsothink Land Rover and Jaguar have a good team ethos."Mr Polites said that among his achievements at Ford of Europe was creating better market representation in key cities such as Stockholm and Paris.

"We’ve placed a lot more focus on market representation – getting the right dealers in the right locations," he said.

Born in Melbourne, Mr Polites has a First Class Honours Degree in Economicsfrom Monash University. Prior to becoming Ford Australia president in 1999, he was dealer principal at City Ford in Sydney for 11 years.

As a Ford dealer, Mr Polites was named Ford Australia’s Dealer of the Year onthree occasions, and also won the Ford President’s Award three times. He servedon the Ford National Dealer Council for five years, and was the Council Chairmanin 1998.

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