James D. Farley, group vice president of Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus Div., will join Ford Motor Co. as its new chief marketing officer.

The move represents a coup for Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally and another blow for Toyota, which recently saw two other top executives – Jim Press and Deborah Wahl Meyer – defect to Chrysler LLC.

“We are thrilled to welcome one of the most successful and talented leaders in the industry to the Ford team,” Mulally says in a statement.

“Jim Farley is well known for innovative marketing strategies that connect great products to today’s and tomorrow’s customers. Ford’s quality and vehicles are now on par with the best of the competition. We look forward to Jim’s leadership to combine world-class marketing with our world-class products worldwide.”

Mulally long has been an admirer of Toyota, having studied the auto maker’s manufacturing system while serving as president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Since his arrival last year, Mulally has placed considerable emphasis on strengthening Ford’s core Blue Oval brand and avoiding distractions caused by running its many subsidiaries. That strategy led Ford to sell off its Aston Martin subsidiary in March and to seek buyers for its Jaguar Cars and Land Rover units.

Farley, 45, will be instrumental in helping Mulally achieve his objectives. He has spent 17 years at Toyota, where prior to his current position he oversaw the launch of Scion and headed up marketing for the Toyota brand.

Farley says he always has had an affinity for Ford.

“My connection with Ford goes back to my first car, a 1966 Ford Mustang,” he says in a statement. “I bought it when I was 15, restored it and drove it from California to Michigan. I am excited to make that trip once again.

“Ford is one of the world’s most admired companies because of its ability to develop iconic products that connect with customers,” Farley adds. “I look forward to building on that strength by engaging customers and introducing even more of them to the great family of Ford.”

Farley’s decision to join Ford, which is reeling after losing a staggering $12.7 billion last year, comes as a surprise to some analysts.

“It’s interesting to see Toyota people jump ship,” says Art Spinella, general manager of CNW Marketing Research. “Farley must have seen something at Ford that’s worthwhile. It shows that Mulally is serious about bringing topnotch people into the company. And it shows that Toyota has some cracks around the edges if people are willing to leave California to move to Detroit.”

Farley will join Ford in mid-November and report directly to Mulally.

Toyota has tapped Scion Vice President Mark Templin as Farley’s successor, a spokesman tells Ward’s.

In response to the ongoing exodus of top Toyota executives, the spokesman says it shows the “industry holds our executives in high regards” and that Toyota has “no shortage of capable and seasoned successors.”

Meanwhile, Richard Beattie, executive vice president marketing and sales, Land Rover North America, has resigned.

Beattie has worked for Land Rover and parent Ford, including a stint at Mazda Motor Corp., for 34 years. He will be replaced by Christopher Marchand, who previously served as Land Rover’s vice president of retail operations.

Jack Devine, a former Land Rover sales and marketing manager, will return from a stint at Audi of America Inc. to take Marchand’s former position.

– with Jim Mateja

bpope@wardsauto.com