The upper echelon of Ford Motor Co.'s global marketing department takes on a decidedly young, noticeably female and intentionally Internet-savvy look.

In the span of 24 hours, 38-year Ford marketing veteran Robert Rewey retired as group vice president, Global Consumer Services and North America, and was replaced by 40-year-old Brian Kelley who had been responsible for the company's e-business strategies.

Karen Francis, 38, former marketing general manager of General Motors Corp.'s Oldsmobile Division, replaces Mr. Kelley as a Ford vice president and president of ConsumerConnect.

Just prior to that top-level change, Jan Klug, 41, was named vice president of global marketing. The granddaughter of James Blair, who owned Zepp Ford in Chicago, Ms. Klug was the architect of some of Ford Division's most innovative advertising campaigns over the past two years.

Jerry Reynolds, chairman of Ford's National Dealer Council, says the new regime must work to prove itself to retailers who often are leery of new automaker executives, especially those with Internet connections.

“The Internet part doesn't bother me,” says Jerry Cohen of Jerry's Ford in Annandale, VA, “What's a hair scary is the lack of direct automotive experience. We've got to wait and see about these new people. The regional managers are good and hopefully it all continues.”

Ford dealers, as a result of these moves might see an automaker even more committed to communicating via the Internet and one that is much more open to taking risks in advertising.

“I think this shows that the company is willing to look at things that are different and take chances,” says H.F. “Bert” Boeckmann, president of Galpin Ford in North Hills, CA. “Jac Nasser has always believed that the Internet would be very important. And this represents the fact that the Internet is important, not necessarily for sales, but for information.”

James A. Mateyka, vice president of A.T. Kearney's automotive consulting practice, says the dealers must be feeling a bit of uncertainty.

“Kelley's going to have to spend a lot of time with the dealers,” Mr. Mateyka says. “He's got to show that he's not just an e-business whiz kid.”

Although Ford hasn't had any trouble selling vehicles — Ford Division alone sold more than 3.5 million vehicles in 2000 — it's 4,100 dealers are among the least satisfied in the industry, according to the most recent NADA survey.

Mr. Kelley, who was responsible for developing the company's ConsumerConnect e-business initiatives, says he plans to work with dealers to refine the way Ford markets and sells its vehicles.

Ms. Francis left GM a year ago to become managing director and chief marketing officer of the Internet Capital Group. In her new role, she will be responsible for managing Ford's e-commerce ventures and activities including e-supplier relationships, consumer e-business activities, telematics and customer relationship centers

Ms. Klug led the unconventional marketing launch of the Ford Focus — beginning with the series of live and interactive television spots featuring entertainers who resonated with youth. She also directed the successful “No Boundaries” Ford Outfitters strategy, the integrated advertising campaign for Ford sport utility vehicle lineup.

Now Ms. Klug is responsible for Ford Motor Co.'s eight brands — Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Volvo, Mazda, Land Rover, Jaguar and Aston Martin.

Mr. Rewey retires after a long career that included innovations in areas such as leasing and brand management.

He's sometimes referred to as “the father of leasing.”