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Ford’s affable troubleshooter Scheele dies at 70

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(Crain News Service photo) Retired Ford executive Nick Scheele’s easygoing style won him many friends in the auto industry.

By Richard Johnson, Crain News Service

DEARBORN, Mich. (Aug. 6, 2014) — Nick Scheele, a globe-trotting, troubleshooting executive who held several key positions at Ford Motor Co., including COO and president, died on July 18 at age 70.

The affable Englishman came up through Ford’s purchasing ranks, and ran Ford Mexico and Jaguar before taking over as chairman of Ford of Europe in 2000.

With Ford reeling in North America in the summer of 2001, he was called across the pond by then-CEO Bill Ford to steer the company’s most important but troubled region.

Just a few months later, on Oct. 30, 2001, Mr. Scheele was named Ford president and COO. In April 2004, Ford name Jim Padilla COO and Mr. Scheele remained president until he retired in February 2005.

Bill Ford, now Ford Motor’s executive chairman, called Mr. Scheele “an outstanding leader whose global experience and passion for our products served Ford Motor Co. at a critical time. He mended relationships with our dealers, our suppliers and our employees, and set the stage for many of today’s leaders who are moving us forward. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this difficult time.”

Mr. Scheele was known for his easygoing style that won him a multitude of friends through the industry. But he was a hard-nosed negotiator, which he proved as a purchasing boss.

And he handled the painful and controversial closure of Ford’s car assembly operation in Dagenham, England, in 2000, with great composure and skill. The closing was particularly difficult for Mr. Scheele because he was born in Essex, the county where Dagenham is located.

Mr. Scheele was chairman and CEO of Jaguar from 1992 to 1999, bringing several new products to the lineup as the English company found its footing under Ford ownership.

In June 2001, he was awarded a knighthood by Britain for services to British exports.

Friends and colleagues enjoyed calling him “Sir Nick,” which always brought a smile from Mr. Scheele.

He was installed as chancellor at the University of Warwick in 2002. He also was on the advisory boards of Coventry University and Durham University, as well as the Fulbright Commission.

At the time of his retirement, Mr. Scheele told Automotive News: “The time was right. I wanted to retire some time ago. We’ve now got the next generation of management in place. They’re now taking the company forward. That is what my responsibility really partially was.”

This report recently appeared on the website of Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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