J Mays, Ford Motor Co.’s global design chief and one of the last senior executives remaining from the Jacques Nasser era, is retiring from the company along with two other veteran senior executives.
Moray Callum, 54, design director for Ford in North America, will replace Mays, 59, the automaker said in a statement.
Also retiring after long Ford careers are Jim Tetreault, 57, vice president of North American manufacturing, and Martin Mulloy, vice president of labor relations.
The changes take effect on Jan 1, Ford said.
Tetreault, a 36-year Ford veteran has been a key figure in revamping Ford’s manufacturing strategy, while Mulloy helped shape agreements with the UAW that ensured Ford’s survival in the dark days of the financial crisis at the end of the last decade.
Mays, a native of Oklahoma, began his design career with Audi and had stints at BMW and Volkswagen before coming to Ford as vice president of design in 1997.
Of the 59 Ford officials listed in the Automotive News Guide to Industry Executives in January 1999, only two are still with the company: Mays and Executive Chairman Bill Ford.
Bill Ford was chairman at that time, steering the automaker along with newly appointed CEO Nasser, who was forced out in October 2001 and replaced by Bill Ford.
Mays was recruited to Ford when Nasser was running the automaker’s North American unit.
He was named group vice president for design in 2003, and in 2005, he took on the expanded role of group vice president and chief creative officer.
Mays led development of a number of concept vehicles, including the Ford Interceptor, Fairlane, Shelby GR-1 and 427, Jaguar F-Type and the Lincoln MKZ Concept, shown at the Detroit auto show in 2012.
Among the production vehicles bearing Mays’ signature are the 2013 Ford Fusion, the 2012 Ford Focus, the 2011 Fiesta, and the 2010 Ford Taurus and Taurus SHO for North America.
His other notable production vehicles include the 2004 and present Ford F-150, the 2005 and 2010 Ford Mustang, 2005 Ford GT and the 2008 Jaguar XF.
When Ford owned luxury brands Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo and Aston Martin, Mays became known more as a design executive who helped lure talented designers to the studios of Ford and the other brands.
“The bold and sophisticated design language that J Mays pioneered will be visible for years to come in Ford vehicles and the auto industry overall,” said Mark Fields, Ford chief operating officer in a statement. “In addition to his talent as a world-class designer, J has brought together one of the most talented design teams in the business.”
His career was not without controversy.
Acclaimed for his talent, Mays took raps from critics for delivering bland vehicles like the Ford Five Hundred and Freestyle, the latter dubbed “Stylefree” by some.
In a 2012 interview with Automotive News, he acknowledged: “I don’t want to push this onto somebody else. I don’t think the Five Hundred or Freestyle was one of my brighter moments in Ford, but designing a car is not a solo effort and a lot of people have input on the kind of product they want. I’ve been at the company 13 years and I’ve been through five CEOs. Some of those CEOs have had more conservative tastes than others. Thankfully the one we have now lets me swing for the fences.”
Under Alan Mulally, Ford’s CEO since 2006, Mays has enjoyed something of a renaissance as he basked in the glow of critical praise for some of Ford’s most recent designs, particularly the 2013 Fusion.