BRUSSELS – The ACEA, the European automobile manufacturers’ association, will have a new boss beginning this autumn, and he comes from outside the automobile sector.

Belgian Erik Jonnaert, former Asia vice president-external relations at consumer-products company Procter & Gamble, will take over as ACEA secretary general from Ivan Hodac, 67, who will retire in October.

Speaking to WardsAuto, Hodac says he does not believe Jonnaert’s lack of automotive experience will impede his efforts to represent the industry in Brussels.

“This is not the first time (the) ACEA has chosen someone from outside the industry to run the association,” Hodac says, noting he also came from another industry 12 years ago, having moved over to the group following a 10-year stint at media conglomerate Time Warner Europe.

“The ACEA board selected the person that they feel is the right one to do the job.”

Jonnaert was appointed last week during a closed-door meeting of the ACEA board of directors here. On hand were the CEOs of member companies BMW, Daimler, Fiat, Ford Europe, General Motors Europe, PSA Peugeot Citroen, Renault Group and Volvo, among others.

Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, serving as this year’s ACEA president, welcomes Jonnaert to group and the automotive industry.

“We are delighted,” he says in a statement. “We are confident that he will build upon the exceptional work of Mr. Hodac, who has steered ACEA smoothly for many years, shaping it into one of Brussels’ most respected associations.”

With the European auto sector facing weakened demand, Jonnaert’s experience with the fast-moving consumer-goods industry could prove invaluable. He has worked for 28 years at P&G, where he held positions in public and regulatory affairs, communications and shareholder relations. He also served a year as president of the European Chamber of Commerce in Singapore.

Jonnaert, 55, is a Harvard Law School and a Columbia University School of Law graduate. He worked for the global law firm Linklaters before joining P&G in 1985.

“It is a great honor to have been given this opportunity to represent what is one of the strategically most important industries in Europe in these challenging times," he says in a statement released by the ACEA.