NScheele_heroFormer Ford president and COO Sir Nick Scheele, who rose to become one of Britain’s top motor industry executives during almost a four-decade career at Ford Motor Company, has died. He was 70.

Essex-born Sir Nick began working for Ford of Britain in 1966, initially in purchasing and, after progression in both the UK and Europe, moved to the US in 1978. His career accelerated in 1988 when he became president of Ford of Mexico.

Following Ford’s purchase of Jaguar Cars, he became chairman and CEO of the Coventry firm in 1992, moving to become chairman of Ford of Europe in early 2000.

His time there was brief though; the US again came calling in 2001, when he became group vice president of Ford North America. But then, controversial Ford boss Jac Nasser was ousted and Sir Nick, on 30 October 2001, became president and COO of Ford Motor Company – a position second only to Bill Ford himself.

This was a tumultuous time for Ford and, said Bill Ford in a statement, Sir Nick’s “global experience and passion for our products served Ford Motor Company at a critical time.

Bill Ford pays tribute

“Not only did Nick help us overcome many challenge at the 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.”

After retiring from Ford on 1 February 2005, Sir Nick became an advisor to several other companies outside the car industry, and continued his work as chancellor at the University of Warwick, a position he accepted in 2002. He received an honorary degree from Durham University in 2003 and served on the advisory boards of both Durham and Coventry University.

He was knighted in 2001, for services to British exports, and the NSPCC voted him a lifetime member in 2003.

There are few British automotive industry execs who have risen to the position Sir Nick did during his time at Ford. He helped put the blue oval house in order and set the stage for the recruitment of Alan Mulally – Ford Motor Company has arguably thrived ever since because of the work overseen by Sir Nick in the early 2000s.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this difficult time,” said Bill Ford.

RIP Sir Nicholas Scheele.