It's all change in the corridors of sales and marketing power at underperforming world number three automaker, Ford Motor Company.

Out goes Earl Hesterberg (51), consigned to the outer darkness of a Houston, Texas car dealership franchise. In comes Steve Lyons (56), replacing Hesterberg as padrone of all marketing, sales and services in North America.

Lyons, formerly responsible for the Ford brand, is replaced by Darryl Hazel (56), previously president of Lincoln Mercury, while Hazel's stand-in is Al Giombetti (48), general sales manager of the same marque.

Ford didn't say who was replacing Giombetti's replacement.

Nonetheless, the PR machine was in full spate, with spokesman Marcey Evans insisting that Hesterberg's departure isn't related to Ford's current sales malaise.

According to seasoned auto observer, Jim Safilippo, evp of Automotive Marketing Consultants in Warren, Michigan: "Lyons is a proven, disciplined guy, and very dealer-centric. He's very much a product of the Ford corporate culture."

Right now that culture appears to be in sore need of an adrenalin shot. Olay, even.

Last Friday Ford issued a profits warning and the abandonment of its self-imposed earnings goal for 2005, warning that earnings will fall some 25% short of earlier estimates [WAMN: 11-Apr-05].

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff