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Ford Australia appoints new chief executive

By Barry Park, 02 Jul 2018 Industry

Ford Australia appoints new chief executive

Kay Hart replaces Graeme Whickman to steer Ford Australia to its next chapter

GRAEME Whickman, appointed to close Ford’s six decades old Australian manufacturing business, will officially leave the former car maker today, the company has announced.

In his place, Kay Hart Ford’s global distribution and digital experience manager for battery electric vehicles is named president and CEO, Ford of Australia and New Zealand. Hart joins Ford Australia from Team Edison, a division within Ford formed to speed up its electric vehicle development.

Ford said Hart, 40, would be based in Melbourne, and report to Peter Fleet, the group vice-president and president of Ford Asia Pacific.

Read next: What the end of vehicle manufacturing means for Australian consumers

“Kay is a proven leader, highly motivated by consumer insights and dealer relations,” Fleet said in a statement. “She has broad experience across the company and around the globe. With strong knowledge and relationships in Australia and New Zealand, Kay will be a wonderful addition to our leadership team and a strong advocate for our customers and dealers.”

Hart has had country responsibilities before. Between 2013-15, she was managing director for Ford Philippines.

She started her career with Ford at the car maker’s New Zealand-based marketing team in 1998.

Whickman, meanwhile, will officially leave Ford to “pursue a new opportunity”. Melbourne-based GUD Holdings, which includes automotive brands such as Ryco, Cooper and lighting company Navra, announced today that Whickman would formally take up the position as its managing director.

Whickman, a 20-year Ford veteran, replaced Bob Graziano at the helm of Ford Australia in 2015 as the company was preparing to wind up its car manufacturing and engine casting operations the next year. Graziano announced the closures in May 2013, and confirmed he had doubled his Australian tenure from three to six years to ensure he was here right through the “transformation” process from manufacturer to full-line importer. However, after a 32-year career with Ford, Graziano elected to retire rather than see his tenure out.

“In the past some people have coined the phrase the ‘Falcon Motor Company’. And whilst that’s a tremendous legacy, it was also a gating function and I think some people couldn’t see past the Falcon,” Whickman told Wheels a year after the factory gates closed for the last time on October 6, 2016.

Read next: Ford Ranger range review
“[Falcon] cast a very large shadow and I don’t think people could see we had other offers in the marketplace… it is interesting to see what’s happening with the [Ford] Ranger, because over that longer time we are seeing another product get a bit more of the limelight.”

Over Whickman’s tenure, Ford has introduced the Mustang performance car to its Australian showroom, a model that has risen to become the brand’s second-best performer behind the Ranger trade ute.

It has also announced plans to roll out the Ford Performance sub-brand to Australian showrooms, and introduce the Ford Ranger Raptor as a halo model for the trade ute – despite it missing out on the twin-turbo V6 petrol engine that will power it in the US, and instead using a twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine.

In her most recent role in the US, Hart was responsible for driving the transformation of Ford’s future customer experience across the globe. “During her time as advanced consumer experience marketing manager, Hart led innovations such as FordPass – the company’s one-stop app that delivers solutions aimed at helping consumers get the most out of their vehicle ownership experience,” the company said in a statement.

“I know I leave a much stronger Ford Australia and New Zealand than only a few years ago, a company that has a strong and vibrant future,” Whickman said.

“The industry is undergoing rapid change, and I have confidence the local leadership teams have the right plans in place to be successful,” he said. “They will continue to be held up in the global Ford world as great examples of what happens when good, focused strategies are supported by committed and skilful employees and dealers.”

Ford Australia's revolving door

  • Geoff Polites (1999-2004)
  • Tom Gorman (2004-08)
  • Bill Osborne (only seven months in the chair)
  • Marin Burela (2008-10)
  • Bob Graziano (2010-15)
  • Graeme Whickman (2015-18)
  • Kay Hart (from April 2)