Jaguar Land Rover on Thursday appointed former BMW AG and Ford Motor Co. executive Ralf Speth as its new CEO.

Speth, 54, replaces Ravi Kant, vice chairman of JLR’s parent company Tata Motors Ltd., who served as interim CEO following last month’s departure of David Smith.

Smith, formerly chief financial officer of JLR, had been acting as CEO since the April 20, 2008, death of Geoff Polites.

Speth last served as head of global operations at the Linde Group, a German engineering firm.

Kant in a statement says Speth will “considerably strengthen the management of the company and enhance the position and reputation of the two iconic brands.”

In 2009, Jaguar sales in the U.S., its second-largest market, were down 19.4%, compared with year-ago to 11,955, while Land Rover deliveries fell 11.5% to 26,306, according to Ward’s data.

Globally, Jaguar and Range Rover sales were off 21.0% and 22.0%, respectively.