INTERNATIONAL: Ford promotes Vella to its top communications post

DETROIT: Ford executive director of corporate communications Jim

Vella is taking on the top communications job in the wake of William

Clay Ford Jr's appointment as the car giant's CEO.



Vella will become vice-president, corporate communications this week,

following the ousting of Jason Vines, who was deposed CEO Jac Nasser's

right-hand man.



One of Vella's immediate priorities will be to deal with the media

fallout over the public rift between Ford and Nasser, forced out of the

company last week.



Rumours of Nasser's expulsion had been circulating in auto circles for

months.



A series of setbacks, including the Ford-Firestone tyre controversy,

quality problems with Ford models and falling profits, had tarnished

Nasser's reputation over the past two years.



Vella will need to position Ford Jr as taking decisive action to right

the company's recent wrongs.



The new CEO is well-regarded in the industry and has won over the

environmental movement by calling for Ford to make its vehicles more

energy-efficient.



Since taking over the top spot, he has also said that he plans to

address profitability and quality issues.



Internally, Vella will need to address issues of worker morale brought

on by ongoing cost-cutting and workforce reductions initiated by

Nasser.



Ford generally handles PR and crisis communications internally, having

no agency of record, although it has previously employed US agencies

including Strat@comm and John Bailey & Associates for ad hoc project

work for various products and divisions.



Vella's main rival for the top spot was Joe Greenwell, vice-president of

communications and public affairs at Ford Europe. Vines leaves Ford

after taking the company's top PR role in February 2000.



He told PRWeek US he had known he would be a casualty of the management

shake-up that saw the departure of his former boss Nasser.



Industry speculation suggests Vines is in the running for another job in

the car industry, with rumours hinting at the top PR job at

DaimlerChrysler.



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