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OCTOBER 30, 2001

The demise of Jacques Nasser - what does it mean?

THE departure from the top of the Ford Motor Company of Jacques Nasser is a massive shake-up for the Detroit giant and the implications of the move will take several months to filter down through the company. Nasser is to be replaced, at least for the moment, by William Clay Ford Jr., the great-grandson of Henry Ford and the company chairman. It is the first time in more than 20 years that a Ford family member has run the business. Nasser has been in charge of Ford for nearly three years but the company's falling share price and the problems with Firestone tires have led to his departure.

It is expected that Ford's North American boss Nick Scheele will become chief operating officer with further changes expected in the top management at Dearborn.

The current arrangement is not expected to last for very long as Ford is believed to be looking for a new CEO and that decision will be crucial for the company's plans in Formula 1 with Jaguar Racing. The Jaguar plan was one of Nasser's ideas and to date has not been a big success with the program costing a great deal of money at a time when Ford is cutting back across the board to try to offset losses. There are many within the Ford hierarchy in Detroit who argue that Jaguar cannot afford to fund a Formula 1 program based on the number of cars being sold. Other argue that it is much better to be a simple engine supplier than to actually try to run a Formula 1 team.

There are elements of logic in all these arguments and it will be interesting to see what the company decides to do in the long-term in F1.

William Clay Ford Jr. is not known for any particular interest in racing although his great-grandfather Henry raced once himself but was a great believer in competition helping to sell automobiles, notably with the great early American racer Barney Oldfield. Ford used money from sales generated by racing success to begin building production cars but eventually turned his back on the sport as he found that mass-producing cheap but good quality automobiles was just as effective.