Profile: Petrol-head with gravitas - Daniel Ward, communications director, MG Rover Group

Serious and understated, Daniel Ward might not seem the dynamic figure needed to turn round the reputation of a car maker that houses two of Britain's most iconic marques but is struggling to get out of the red. In person, however, he is impressive, towering well over six feet and speaking with a certainty that leaves you in no doubt who's calling the shots.

Less than three months into the role, Ward, 51, has wasted no time in stamping his mark on MG Rover. Last month he convinced his bosses to speak openly about its potentially controversial £1bn joint venture with Chinese government-owned Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC).

'I didn't ask them,' says Ward. 'I was convinced it was the right decision.

What was needed was somebody with sufficient experience to put over the case for positive communications to senior management.' The approach has reportedly annoyed SAIC executives, but Ward is adamant the decision to bring the media in was correct,

MG Rover has been subjected to intense media scrutiny since it was sold by BMW for a nominal £10 in 2000 and, while the proposed SAIC deal offers hope, it also carries fears of factory closures and foreign interference in Britain's last independent car giant.

'My peers say to me this is probably the hardest PR job in motoring history and that's probably a fair assessment,' says Ward. 'There is something about MG Rover that makes it very high profile. M&S is an interesting parallel - some companies are in the national psyche.'

Ward's self-belief carries no animation or fist-thumping - the most you will get out of him is a wry smirk, and don't bother asking him to smile for a photographer.

Nevertheless, he takes an open approach to the media, best demonstrated when he threw open the doors to journalists while managing the final days of Ford's Dagenham plant in 2002.

'What's the benefit of keeping the media outside the gate? When I see a picture of the gates on TV, I know it's wrong. And I take decisions pretty quickly. I'm not slow,' he says. 'I've got enough gravitas to convince people and that's reasonably important. Management have always been pretty good at saying: "OK, we better do it your way." I can't remember too many failures along the way,' he muses.

This might come across as sheer arrogance if it came from anyone else. But Ward's measured tones make it sound like considered opinion. Ferrari Maserati UK comms director Al Clarke says if any PR man can help MG Rover it is Ward, who 'has the ability to get things done because people trust him'.

Clarke adds: 'Dan's an intellectual. He listens a lot, and when he does speak you know he has thought about it and it's worth listening to. If he sits and stares at you and just says "mmm" it means he doesn't agree with you, but then he'll explain why.'

Clarke has also seen Ward at work behind the wheel, as a racer of vintage Morgans, saying that 'he's a bit of a mean driver, which you wouldn't expect from his serious appearance'. He explains that Ward keeps much of his personality, including a 'wicked sense of humour', well hidden.

A trained mechanical engineer, Ward admits he is a true petrol-head, racing and rebuilding Morgans, and complementing his MG with a motorbike: 'I'm never happier than when I'm working on my cars - it's what I've always done. In our family we call it garage therapy. If you've had a tense day you go and work in the garage.'

His passion for cars even led Ward to leave Ford to buy a Morgan dealership and, while not his greatest success, Ward says he needed to 'get it out of my system'.

He promises he has returned to face MG Rover's comms challenge with enthusiasm.

'As a PR job, it is very challenging but when we turn it around and get our partnership with SAIC there will be immense satisfaction,' he insists, with a calm certainty that makes it difficult to doubt him.

RESUME

1984: Technical editor, Motor Magazine

1987: Motoring correspondent, The Times

1989: Freelance journalist

1991: Director of corporate affairs, Nissan Motor GB

1999: Director of comms, Nissan Europe

2000: V-P of comms, Nissan Europe

2001: Executive director of comms and public affairs, Ford of Britain

2003: Owner, Morgan dealership

2004: Comms director, MG Rover Group

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