OAKVILLE, Ont. (AP) — Ford Motor Co.'s new head of its Canadian operations has a big task ahead of him in dealing with a declining industry, says Buzz Hargrove, head of the Canadian Auto Workers.
Barry Engle, 44, a 15-year veteran of the Detroit-based company who has been president of its Brazilian operations was named president and chief executive of Ford of Canada on Tuesday, effective Feb. 1.
Engle replaces Bill Osborne, who will become president of the Detroit automaker's operations in Australia.
''The new guy's got big boots to fill,'' said Hargrove. ''Hopefully he can do it.''
Hargrove said Osborne was ''very, very good'' at what he did and ''represented Ford very well at every meeting I've ever been at.''
Osborne earned the respect of government officials, both federally and provincially, and of the union as well, said Hargrove.
''He was a good strong spokesperson for the industry, and the union as well,'' especially on the unfair trade issue, he said. ''We wish Bill well.''
Engle will have to earn that same respect if he wants to succeed in keeping the industry strong, said Hargrove.
The change in management comes as Ford of Canada and the industry as a whole face a number of challenges.
They include a long-term loss of market share by the North American-based automakers to Asian and European competitors, the strengthening of the Canadian dollar that's hurting most manufacturers that export to the United States, and a new round of labor negotiations with the CAW later this year.
What Engle faces ''is what the industry faces in Canada, the need for an automotive policy federally,'' said Hargrove.
''We've got the imports coming from Korea and Japan that are killing us,'' said Hargrove.
''Bill was a proponent of government policy to deal with the unfair trade issue,'' said Hargrove.
''Engle is going to face the same issue no matter what else happens — no matter how much support the industry gets from government, no matter how much the unions demand in bargaining.''
There were reports last week that Ford has lined up $30 million from the Ontario government and is seeking a similar amount from Ottawa to build more environmentally friendly V-8 truck engines at a closed plant in Windsor, Ont. Ford has declined to comment.
Mark Fields, Ford president of the Americas, said praised Engle as ''a key player in our efforts to help improve Ford's reputation among American customers, growing awareness of our product strengths — especially quality and driving performance.''
Before becoming president of Ford's Brazilian subsidiary, with responsibility for the company's operations in six other South American countries as well, he held several positions in the United States.
The company said he had championed new marketing directions that focused on the quality, safety and fuel economy of Ford vehicles, especially the Fusion, Focus and Edge, and oversaw the launch of Synch, an in-car communications system for controlling mobile phones and MP3 players using voice commands, in collaboration with Microsoft.
Fields also thanked Osborne, saying ''the results in Canada have been a bright spot in our North American operations.''
However, Ford of Canada slipped behind Chrysler last year to the No. 3 spot in terms of vehicles sold in Canada. Both trail General Motors, the Canadian market leader.