Dealers give high marks to Greg Smith, who replaces Don Winkler as the head of Ford Credit.

“It's great news,” says Texas dealer Jerry Reynolds, former chairman of the Ford National Dealer Council. “Greg is one of the sharpest and brightest guys I've ever met.”

Reynolds adds, “Don Winkler is a real motivator. But he didn't know the nuts and bolts whereas Greg grew up in the business, rising through the ranks.”

George Gorno, a Michigan dealer, says, “Smith certainly knows the retail end and has a great track record as a realistic businessman.”

The move comes after Ford Credit experienced huge losses — almost $2 billion by the end of the third quarter. The rap is that Ford Credit under Winkler loosened credit standards — a charge that Reynolds scoffs at.

“They haven't changed their policies one bit. Everyone wants to say they wrote some bad paper and that's not the case,” he says. “Look, there are going to be more defaults on loans right now because of the massive number of layoffs.”

Gorno says of Winkler, “The only shortcoming that I can see over the past 18 months is that the time it took to get cars paid off, and the paperwork increased.”

Smith will keep his former title as Ford Credit COO, while the company eliminates the CEO and chairman titles held by Winkler.