Ford taps EV expert to be new boss for Australia, NZ

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Ford names former global head of battery electric vehicle distribution, Kay Hart, as new CEO/president of Australia and NZ.

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US auto giant Ford Motor Company has signalled the start of a new chapter for its business in Australia, with the appointment of a global electric vehicle executive, Kay Hart, to head up operations Down Under.

In what could only be good news for Australia’s flagging EV market, Ford announced on Monday that Hart – who was most recently the auto-maker’s global BEV (battery electric vehicle) manager, distribution & digital experience – had been named president and CEO, Ford Australia and New Zealand.

Hart – who replaces outgoing CEO Graeme Whickman – will be based in Melbourne, and will report to Peter Fleet, who was group vice president and president of Ford Asia Pacific.

But will she bring an electric vehicle focus to the market in Australia?

In an emailed response to RenewEconomy, Ford Australia said the new CEO is looking forward to working with the FCAI (Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries) and the greater industry on a broad range of opportunities.

“The discussion around EVs will be part of that,” a company spokesperson said.

Ford’s regional boss, Peter Fleet, said in a statement on Monday that Hart was “a proven leader, highly motivated by consumer insights and dealer relations.

“With strong knowledge and relationships in Australia and New Zealand, Kay will be a wonderful addition to our leadership team and a strong advocate for our customers and dealers.”

Given Hart’s most recent experience in Ford’s “Team Edison” – which focuses on rapidly designing and implementing customer-focused BEV services and ownership experiences – the local EV industry will be hoping that strong advocacy will extend their way, too.

As we have reported here, resistance at a dealership level is considered one of the key barriers to consumer uptake of electric vehicles – one of many, in the case of the Australian market, where only a handful of fully electric cars are available to consumers.

The broader industry has also proven resistant to the shift to EVs, with the FCAI, itself, recently issuing a warning that the introduction of light vehicle emissions standards – of which Australia currently has none – would take some of the nation’s highest selling cars out of the market.

Hart, who is 40 years old – and will be Ford Australia’s first female president – started her career in the marketing team at Ford New Zealand in 1998.

“I am excited to come back to Asia Pacific and work with such a strong and accomplished Ford Australia and New Zealand team,” she said, in comments on Monday.

“I’m looking forward to working with our dealers and team to continue the great progress that has been made in the consumer experience and helping accelerate growth across the business.”

In this role, Hart will be responsible for Ford’s National Sales Company in Australia and New Zealand, including marketing, sales and service, dealer relations, customer satisfaction and sales performance.

She will continue to lead the transformation of Ford’s business, including the work to revamp the consumer and dealer experience, the company said.

Like Australia, Ford has been relatively slow off the mark in terms of electric vehicles. So far, the Detroit car maker produced just one fully electric car, a version of the Focus (pictured above) that offers just over 100 miles of range.

In January, however, Ford announced plans to increase investments in EVs to $US11 billion by 2022, and have 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its line-up by that date.

“We’re all in on this and we’re taking our mainstream vehicles, our most iconic vehicles, and we’re electrifying them,” Ford told reporters. “If we want to be successful with electrification, we have to do it with vehicles that are already popular.”

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10 Comments
  1. MaxG 3 months ago

    All hype no action… 2022, right…

  2. decryption 3 months ago

    Shame that Ford has practically no EV strategy to actually let this “EV Expert” use her experience on.

  3. Nick Kemp 3 months ago

    When Ford have any current model BEVs ready for sale then they are in the game otherwise they are just making hot air and we don’t need any more of that thank you very much. At this stage of the game they should have a few prototypes on show but there doesn’t seem to be anything. If they are not careful they will live up to their acronym… Found On Rubbish Dump

  4. Ian 3 months ago

    Poor lady is being punished, sent to the the land of open cut mines at the end of the world

    • DevMac 3 months ago

      A “least damage” appointment. I hope not, for the sake of EV uptake in Aus.

    • john 3 months ago

      Perhaps you are on to something there.
      Land of the lump of coal in Parliament and no emission standards cough cough.
      I suppose one good aspect a few hours away from the relations across the ditch.

  5. George Darroch 3 months ago

    Knock me over with a teabag will you? Ford has no interest in EVs.

  6. DevMac 3 months ago

    One the one hand we have Ford Europe’s CEO tweet ridiculing Tesla’s Model 3 production capacity.

    On the other hand we have: “So far, the Detroit car maker produced just one fully electric car”.

    So, Ford is happily still living in past glory whilst losing it’s grip on the future. For the sake of competition, I hope they start moving a bit quicker into the EV fold. This appointment is a good thing, and hopefully this gets EV lobbying off the ground in Australia.

    • MaxG 3 months ago

      I hope they have their Kodak moment!

  7. john 3 months ago

    There are several plants that used to make ICE vehicles just sitting there waiting for someone to come along and put together EV’s.
    The country has the metals; it has the engineers; it has the research facilities.
    Australia was the country where Ford put a tray on a chassis and created the utility.
    Now of course their main seller is an over-sized F-150. so called truck.
    I wonder if the team can do the feasibility study to build batteries, or source them from the muted factory in South Australia, together with the build of an EV?
    I am not putting my money on it.

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