The FINANCIAL — Ford Motor Company on April 24 is announcing key global leadership changes as well as the creation of a single new
distribution channel for its Greater China business to accelerate growth.
The new Ford National Distribution Services Division in China, or NDSD, replaces a complex joint venture and dealer network. It will be responsible for the marketing, sales and service of all Ford passenger vehicles sold in China. This means:
Ford dealers in China will be able to offer customers Ford’s full lineup of vehicles, regardless of which company or joint venture builds them, and whether they are locally assembled or imported
To improve marketing effectiveness, the NDSD will speak with a single and consistent voice to promote the Ford brand in China; it also will accelerate efforts to simplify and improve the Ford customer experience
Ford’s China business will become more operationally fit through reduced duplication and other efficiencies
To spearhead this effort, Ford is hiring two highly respected executives of the China auto industry.
Henry Li is appointed vice president, Marketing and Sales, Ford Greater China, effective May 7. Li will be based in Shanghai and Chongqing, reporting to Peter Fleet, Ford group vice president, Asia Pacific, and chairman and CEO, Ford China. In this new role, Li will be responsible for leading Ford’s transition to the new NDSD.
Ford also names Richard Chen as vice president, Strategy and Partnerships, Ford Greater China, effective May 16. Chen will be based in Shanghai also reporting to Fleet. He will be responsible for overall China business strategic planning, as well as management of external partnerships and stakeholder relations.
At the same time, Jacques Brent, currently president, Ford Middle East and Africa, is appointed to the new global position of director, Product Marketing, effective June 1. This move is part of Ford’s push to transform its marketing organization to drive greater efficiency, effectiveness and customer insight – leveraging the latest tools and technology.
The company also is announcing that Mark Ovenden, currently vice president, Marketing, Sales and Service, Asia Pacific, will succeed Brent as president, Ford Middle East and Africa, effective June 1. In this role, Ovenden will be responsible for driving growth in the company’s Middle East and Africa operations across more than 70 markets, according to Ford.
“We’re reshaping our business in China and adding new talent that will help us compete and win now and in the future in the world’s largest auto market,” said Jim Hackett, Ford Motor Company president and CEO. “At the same time, we are making key leadership changes that will help us accelerate our growth in Middle East and Africa and reshape our global marketing organization.”
Li, 50, brings 26 years of marketing and sales experience in China’s auto industry. Prior to joining Ford, Li served as senior executive vice president, Beijing Mercedes-Benz Sales Service Company. He led the team responsible for China becoming the largest single market for Mercedes-Benz globally – establishing a highly efficient, profitable national distribution network that drove year-over-year sales increases for 59 consecutive months.
Chen, 49, joins Ford from Key Safety Systems where he served as vice president as well as managing director and board director of Yanfeng KSS (Shanghai) Automotive Safety Systems Company, a joint venture of Key Safety Systems and Yanfeng Automotive Trim Systems Company (previously Yanfeng Visteon Automotive Trim Systems Company). Chen was responsible for the overall operation of the business, including sales, the technology center and four manufacturing plants in China. Under his leadership, the company’s business revenue grew from $110 million to $1 billion in less than nine years, while its market position jumped from fourth to second. Before that, Chen held several positions at Magna Powertrain Asia Pacific and Chrysler North America.
The NDSD will take the place of the existing Changan Ford sales company as part of the Changan Ford joint venture.
“The addition of Henry Li and Richard Chen, two proven executives with deep experience in China, will help us accelerate our China 2025 growth plan and connect with customers in new ways,” said Fleet. “Henry will play a significant role in launching a single distribution channel for all Ford products and services in China, delivering improvements for marketing effectiveness, as well as operational efficiencies, with considerable benefits to our brand, partners, dealers and customers. Richard will advance our ‘In China, For China’ vision as he leads overall business strategic planning and management of external partnerships.”
Brent, 48, will assume responsibility for Ford’s global product marketing activities, working to improve the product planning process, representing the voice of the customer and closely aligning with Product Development. He will report to Joy Falotico, group vice president, The Lincoln Motor Company and chief marketing officer.
Brent has served as president, Ford Middle East and Africa, since 2016, coming over from Shanghai, where he oversaw the marketing activities of 12 major markets as vice president, Marketing, Asia Pacific. Over his 20-year career, Brent has accumulated deep marketing expertise from serving in multiple global assignments spanning three continents.
Under Brent’s leadership, Ford Middle East and Africa continued to develop its long-term regional strategy, including strengthening its retail footprint and distributor partnerships, expanding its assembly operations in South Africa, and growing its customer-centric product offerings.
Ovenden, 53, takes over leadership of Ford Middle East and Africa after 33 years with the company serving in a variety of marketing and sales positions globally. He will relocate to Dubai and report to Steven Armstrong, Ford group vice president and president, Europe, Middle East and Africa.
The Middle East and Africa market offers a tremendous long-term opportunity for the company. Under Ovenden’s direction, Ford will continue to focus on improving operational fitness, growing the business across the many diverse markets in which it operates, and working with its dealers and partners to further develop its customer base. Ovenden also will work with the regional team to ensure Ford remains an integral part of the communities where it has a presence.
Ovenden most recently served as vice president, Marketing, Sales and Service, Asia Pacific. When appointed to this role and elected a company officer in 2017, he took on responsibility for leading the marketing, sales and service functions across the Asia Pacific region. Over his career, Ovenden has served as president and CEO, Ford Sollers, Ford’s joint venture in Russia, as well as chairman and managing director, Ford of Britain.
“Under Jacques’ leadership, we have continued to strengthen our business across the Middle East and Africa, and laid a solid foundation for the future,” said Armstrong. “Looking forward, I am confident that Mark’s deep marketing expertise and consumer mindset will be a significant asset to help accelerate our business in the region, offering exciting new products and services, and further driving operational fitness.”