Jac Nasser has never been one to let an opportunity pass. Which is why few atMotor Co. - or any of his competitors, for that matter - are surprised at the speed at which Ford's new chief has moved to put his stamp on the world's No. 2 automaker.
Mr. Nasser grabbed executives from some of his rivals and from places such as Whirlpool Corp. and General Electric, people he believes can help him strengthenand sharpen the company's focus of meeting the wants and needs of consumers.
So while DaimlerChrysler has had to deal with the defections of several of its top executives, Mr. Nasser has been handpicking members for a new team that he believes are the hottest bets to reshape Ford and transform the success of its truck business to cars.
"We are trying to bring in people who will help make us be different, help challenge the organization, create some healthy friction and have the guts and courage to create change," says David Murphy, Ford vice president of human resources.
The influx of new talent, however, comes at a time when Ford is posting record profits, which has angered some employees, especially those who have been waiting patiently to fill slots vacated by those who recently retired, positions that in the past these employees were virtually guaranteed.
"Ford was run a lot like the Roman Legion," says one Ford spokesman. "You didn't get ascension until someone was killed in battle. Jac is showing that the old rules don't apply anymore."
The changes have brought a sense of renewal for some, while others, particularly the "old guard," are learning that 30-year degrees no longer are brokered at Ford.
"I'd be crazy to say that there aren't some people whose feathers have been ruffled or who are resentful," Mr. Murphy says. "There are some who will leave as a result of this change, but the vast majority of people are extremely loyal to this company."
To date, Mr. Nasser has landed two execs from the formerCorp., one from AG and another from Audi AG, just to name a few. Other new hires have appeared in departments ranging from marketing and design to customer service.
"Jac's on the look for talent all of the time," John Devine, Ford's chief financial officer, summed up earlier this year.
Mr. Nasser has hired people like Shamel T. Rushwin and Chris P. Theodore. Mr. Rushwin, a senior vice president for international manufacturing and minivan assembly operations at, is now vice president of advanced manufacturing engineering at Ford. His colleague, Mr. Theodore, who enjoyed a reputation as a solid new product planner as senior vice president-platform engineering at Chrysler, became vice president of Ford's large and luxury vehicle center. Mr. Theodore replaces Kenneth Kohrs, who retires June 1 after more than 37 years with Ford.
Mr. Kohrs says the timing of his retirement has nothing to do with the new faces at Ford, certainly not that of Mr. Theodore, and more to do with his desire to shepherd to market the last vehicles he has worked on: the new Mustang, Jaguar S-Type, Lincoln LS and the '00 Taurus.
But with the departure of Mr. Kohrs, and retirements of executives such as Robert Transou, 59, vice president of manufacturing, and John Huston, 55, vice president of powertrain, Ford loses valuable experience in getting a product to market, insiders say.
"The one thing I am concerned about as I walk out the door is that a lot of the experience of delivering a product walks out the door," Mr. Kohrs says. "The folks coming from the Whirlpools and GEs, that concerns me. You have to love cars. As long as that is there, we are all right."
Gerald C. Meyers, former chief executive of American Motors Corp. and now a professor of management at the University of Michigan Business School, doubts the new people will make any real change at Ford.
"Ford is a culture unt o itself," he says. "It has momentum that has been built up over the last 96 years. Anyone who enters that sphere is going to be influenced by all or part of that culture. You can be an individual in any culture, but when you get into that you become more of the culture than the culture becomes of you."
Mr. Nasser should be given credit for trying to initiate change, Mr. Meyers says. But short of bringing in an army, he won't be able to dramatically change the landscape, because ultimate control of the company still resides with the Ford family, he adds.
"The guys they got from Chrysler aren't bad, but they aren't supermen," Mr. Meyers says. "They aren't going to change the culture. I admire Nasser for experimenting, but that is all he is doing. The organization is enormous; the momentum is gigantic. It is much more powerful than a small band of people being seeded into the company."
Ford's Mr. Murphy disagrees. "You don't need an army. You need a small group of really passionate, dedicated people who are aligned with our vision. We don't need to replace the top 2,000 people in the company."
Mr. Murphy says Ford only is part-way down the path to change. "We have a ways to go. There are a lot of good people here. Some of them have been sparked with what has been going on. Before they were kind of cruising along in auto control."
Those who are not motivated or incapable of keeping step with Mr. Nasser's bold new strategy to reshape Ford have been given the tap on the shoulder to leave. This has resulted in the retirement of some seven vice presidents and a host of midlevel "underachievers" (Ford's term), many before the age of 60. While these changes have hurt morale, there is a sizable group that believes these "outsiders" will bring some new and unusual thinking into Ford - ultimately making the company stronger - because they aren't ingrained in the "Ford attitude."
Louise Goeser and George Murphy are examples of this new kind of thinking. Ms. Goeser, a former Whirlpool exec, is now vice president of quality. Mr. Murphy, a GE Lighting exec for more than a decade, is now general marketing manager for Ford Div.
Ford design chief J. Mays, one of Mr. Nasser's first outside hires, in January lured Christopher Bird, 42, from Audi to become director of design for Ford's European Car Center. Among Mr. Bird's creations: the elegant, consummately professional Audis A8, A4 and A3. Shortly after Mr. Bird's arrival, Claude Lobo, the incumbent, unexpectedly retired at the age of 55, after 32 years with Ford.
"Bringing in talent from the outside is a breath of fresh air," says Richard Parry-Jones, vice president, product development at Ford. "It encourages us to say. 'Let's keep going.'"
Mr. Parry-Jones says he doesn't feel threatened by Mr. Nasser's recent hiring of Wolfgang Reitzle, formerAG product-development head who resigned in February and will oversee Ford's luxury brands - Lincoln, Volvo, Jaguar, and .
"I am secure enough that we both can add a lot of value," says Mr. Parry-Jones, who says Mr. Nasser consulted him prior to hiring Mr. Reitzle. "His (Mr. Reitzle's) priorities are the same as mine."
Mr. Parry-Jones says people inside the company shouldn't conclude that Ford has decided not to promote from within anymore. "We are just trying to balance it a little. I still think we have a very talented team inside."