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Ford Names Volvo Chief Odell to Head European Unit

Odell will succeed John Fleming
Stephen Odell of Ford Motor Co. Photographer: Fabrizio Costantini/Bloomberg

Stephen Odell, the Ford Motor Co. veteran who has been chief executive officer of Volvo Cars since 2008, will run Ford’s European unit after Zhejiang Geely Holding Co. completes a takeover of the Swedish carmaker.

Odell, 55, will succeed John Fleming, 58, who will focus on leading global manufacturing and labor affairs, the Dearborn, Michigan-based carmaker said in a statement today. Jim Farley, 48, will take an expanded role as Ford’s global chief for marketing, sales and service.

Ford of Europe this week reported a 17 percent decline in monthly sales as expiring government incentive programs curbed demand for models such as the Fiesta subcompact. Its market share slid 1.2 percentage points to 7.8 percent. Odell will be an asset as Ford seeks to avoid getting into a price war in the region, said Ian Fletcher, a European automotive analyst at IHS Global Insight in London.

“Odell is pretty much Ford through and through,” Fletcher said in a telephone interview. ”Initially his position will be spent keeping the company on an even keel and maintaining the steady progress they’ve been making.”

Ford projects European auto sales industry-wide will fall to as few as 14 million vehicles in 2010 from 15.9 million a year ago. Ford’s strategy has been to avoid replacing government subsidies with its own discounts to preserve per-vehicle profits.

Geely Deal

Also moving back to the parent company is Stuart Rowley, Volvo’s 43-year-old chief financial officer, who will take on the same role at Ford of Europe, the U.S. carmaker said today.

“These moves allow us to strengthen our global team as we accelerate our One Ford plan and continue to profitably grow, serving our customers around the world,” Ford CEO Alan Mulally said in the statement.

Ford fell 23 cents, or 2 percent, to $11.58 at 10:16 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

Geely is buying Volvo from Ford for $1.8 billion in the biggest overseas purchase by a Chinese automaker. In a separate statement, Geely said that Li Shufu will become chairman of Volvo and Hans-Olov Olsson will be vice chairman.

Neither Ford nor Geely said who will succeed Odell as Volvo CEO. Olle Axelson, a Volvo spokesman, said Geely will probably name a CEO for Volvo when it completes the deal.

Volkswagen AG is negotiating with U.S. chief Stefan Jacoby over terms of his departure before he may take over as CEO at Volvo, people familiar with the matter said June 25.

Volvo’s new leader will have to boost sales to return the company to profit while tapping growth in China, which surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest car market in 2009.

Odell, a 55-year-old Briton, was named head of Volvo in September 2008, becoming the fourth leader since Ford bought the Volvo Cars unit of truckmaker Volvo AB in 1999 for $6.5 billion. Odell first joined Ford of Britain in 1980 as a trainee.

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