Former Briton tipped to take over as Ford chief

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The Independent Online
ALEX TROTMAN, head of Ford's North American car operations, has emerged as the favourite to take over the chairmanship of the company, the world's second-biggest car maker and fourth-largest industrial corporation.

If appointed to the post, the British-born Mr Trotman, 60, would become the first non-US-born executive to run Ford in its 90-year history.

Mr Trotman was born in Middlesex and educated in Edinburgh but has since taken US citizenship. He joined Ford in 1955 after serving as a flying officer in the Royal Air Force.

The only other serious contender for the chairmanship is Allan Gilmour, president of the Ford automotive group since March 1990 and a former chief financial officer.

However, Mr Trotman is widely regarded in company circles as the front-runner to take over when Harold Poling, the current chairman, retires next year.

Mr Trotman has held a variety of senior posts at Ford, including president of its Asia Pacific division and chairman of Ford of Europe.

Regarded as a 'product man', he is credited with having transformed Ford's US car operations from a position of heavy financial losses in the late 1980s into one of the group's few profitable divisions.

Despite worldwide sales of 5.345 million cars and trucks last year worth dollars 88bn (pounds 51.7bn), Ford suffered record losses of nearly dollars 2.3bn. The dollars 3.185bn loss on its automotive operations was offset by profits from Ford Finance.

Mr Trotman was responsible for the re-launch in the US of the Taurus, a Granada/Scorpio-sized saloon, and the development of the Explorer 4x4 vehicle. Both of these vehicles helped restore Ford's fortunes in the American market.

Mr Poling had planned to retire earlier this year, but agreed to stay on until next June. The move was seen as a means of giving Mr Trotman extra time to establish his credentials to take over the chairmanship.

A Ford spokesman declined to comment on speculation that Mr Trotman would get the job.

'This is a board decision and will be taken in the best interests of the company,' the spokesman added.