Yesterday#;s Mazda Motor Corporation announcement of senior management changes effective March 1, 2002 has dashed speculation in Japan that Mark Fields would be replaced as president, according to The Financial Times (FT).

A Ford statement said that Lewis Booth will join Mazda from Ford as senior advisor in charge of corporate strategy, transferring from the post of president, Ford Asia Pacific, Africa and technical staffs.

According to the FT, Mazda added that Booth#;s new post was a global position.

The newspaper said that speculation that Ford, which owns 33.4 per cent of Mazda, might replace Mr Fields increased after Jac Nasser#;s ousting as Ford’s chief executive late last year. This cast uncertainty over the future of Mazda – and Nasser favourite Fields who was appointed to head the Japanese car maker in 1999, three years after Ford bought its stake in the company.

The FT said that Fields prepared Mazda’s Millennium Plan to restore profits, introduce new products, cut debt and reduce purchasing costs.

According to the FT, Mazda has denied a Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper report that Booth would replace Fields in June.

“This is pure speculation and wrong,” the company told the FT. “Fields has made clear on many occasions that he has a job to do here at Mazda, to execute various elements of the Millennium Plan. While it is clear that he will at some stage return to Ford, nothing imminent is planned.”

The other management changes announced yesterday included:

– Hisakazu Imaki, senior managing director in charge of production engineering, manufacturing and business logistics becomes representative director, executive vice president and chief engineering and manufacturing officer in charge of R&D, production, quality assurance and business logistics.

Imaki joined Mazda in 1965 and has concentrated on production engineering and planning. He was appointed director in 1993 and managing director in 1997 and led various vehicle mass production launches, including most recently the first jointly developed vehicle with Ford, the Tribute/Escape in October 2000, and Mazda#;s new generation mid-size car Atenza/Mazda6 in the middle of this month.

Said Fields, “As Mazda rolls out our aggressive product-led recovery, it is necessary to appoint a senior member of staff to ensure close integration of the manufacturing and R&D functions. Hisakazu Imaki’s track record in this field is recognised across the industry – he will make an outstanding leader in this role for Mazda.”

Further changes are:

– Kei Kado, senior managing director in charge of R&D, quality assurance and Six Sigma becomes senior managing director in charge of technical research centre, quality assurance and Six Sigma.

– Ryoichi Hasegawa, senior managing director in charge of IT solution, e-business, general affairs, legal affairs and Osaka branch; assistant to the CFO will additionally be in charge of risk management.

– Hitoshi Inoue, managing director, assistant to officer in charge of product development and quality assurance will be in charge of R&D technical administration; assistant to chief engineering and manufacturing officer.

– Fumiaki Inami, managing director in charge of corporate benchmarking; general manager, product planning and business strategy division will be in charge of product strategy and corporate benchmarking.

– Masaharu Yamaki, director, general manager, product engineering division will be in charge of manufacturing and business logistics.

– Nobuhide Inamoto, director, general manager, business logistics division will be director, general manager, production engineering division.

– Joseph Bakaj, originally announced as senior advisor in charge of product strategy, design and product development will be senior advisor in charge of design and product development.