Former Ford of Europe and Maserati chief Martin Leach has died from cancer at the age of 59.

Leach also headed up the Mazda and Gaz brands before establishing his own consultancy firm Magma International. Most recently he was co-founder and head of the NextEV Formula E team.

NextEV chairman and founder William Li announced Leach’s death on Tuesday. He said: “With the deepest grief, I have to announce that we have lost a great friend, a leader and a founding member and co-president of NextEV, Martin Leach, who left us today after fighting illness over the past few months.

“I came to know Martin in October 2014. I was impressed by his achievements in the industry, and I was deeply touched by his passion in sharing my vision of creating a totally new experience for automobile users.

“Under his leadership, NextEV achieved the inaugural drivers’ championship title in the FIA Formula E Championship and our supercar will be seen by the world soon. Martin is a true warrior and lived to the highest standard. Even during his last minutes, he was still caring about the progress of NextEV.”

Leach had an automotive career spanning more than 40 years heading car and truck organisations and OEMs in Europe, US and China. He was involved in more than 250 product programmes.

He worked for Ford between 1979 and 2003. Between 1996 and 1999 he was director of global research and development, managing director and member of the Mazda board. He developed a new product philosophy and brand strategy that resulted in cars such as the Mazda 6 and RX-8.

In 2002 he became the president of Ford Europe. During this period, he begun implementing the so-called ’45 in 5′ strategy, a plan to launch 45 new products between 2002 and 2007 resulting in the launch of the Fusion, Streetka and C-Max.

However, in 2003 there was an acrimonious falling out which resulted in Leach suing the carmaker. A year later he became chief executive officer at Maserati but left following the decision by Fiat to align it with Alfa Romeo.

In 2006 Leach was appointed chairman of LDV in the UK by the then new owner, Gaz Group.