Ford replaces European chief executive amid widening losses



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MILAN — U.S. carmaker Ford on Friday replaced its European boss amid widening regional losses and two years into a turnaround plan aimed at returning the division to profitability.

Ford's global marketing chief, Jim Farley, will take over as head of European operations, based in Cologne, Germany, switching roles with outgoing European chief executive, Stephen Odell, who was named to the marketing job, the automaker said in a statement.

Ford hasn't turned a pretax profit in Europe since 2010, the year Odell took over as the region plunged into a recession that provoked the region's biggest car market contraction ever. The carmaker is forecasting a $1.2 billion loss in Europe for 2014, following widening third-quarter losses, and no longer is predicting a return to profit next year.

"Ford is struggling in Europe, but I don't think that struggle is unique to Ford," said IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley. She said the change in roles appears to have been aimed at redeploying the experienced executives, not dissatisfaction with Odell's performance.

Ford has closed three plants and launched an ambitious schedule of product launches two years ago in a bid to return to profit and revive slumping sales. Ford's sales in Europe rose 7.3 percent over the first nine months of the year, outpacing the market.

"Under Stephen's leadership, our European transformation plan is well under way, and we are poised to profitably grow as the region emerges from a long downturn," CEO Mark Fields said in a statement.

Farley, 52, will be charged with leading Ford's turnaround in Europe, which includes a series of new product launches and cost cutting, Ford said. Farley took over the marketing role in 2007, and previously spent a decade at the Lexus luxury division of Toyota Motor Corp.

Odell, 59, with 34 years of experience within Ford, is credited as instrumental in the turnarounds at Volvo, where he was CEO for two years, and at Mazda, where he was marketing chief.

Ford said the changes have been planned for some time.

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