DEARBORN – The planned retirement of an accomplished and respected longtime Ford executive is prompting a leadership change in the company’s regional organization that builds some of the industry’s most iconic and breakthrough vehicles.
John Savona, vice president, Americas Manufacturing and Labor Affairs, will retire on March 1 after more than 33 years with Ford. Bryce Currie, who most recently was chief manufacturing officer for Johnson Controls, will follow Savona in the role. Currie is joining Ford on Jan. 30, affording a thorough, smooth handoff between the two leaders.
Like Savona has, Currie will report to Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford Blue.
“The arc of John’s Ford career has a storybook quality, but it’s been real and significant,” said Galhotra of Savona, who started in 1989 as a security officer at what’s now known as the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, before advancing through regional and global roles. “He’s highly regarded by colleagues in the plants and all of Ford, and his ability to connect with people on a very personal level has helped us navigate extraordinary challenges in the past few years.”
Those challenges have involved stopping, then restarting, operations with significant new safety protocols in 2020 amid the global pandemic; unprecedented and persistent supply chain issues; and renewal of Ford’s product lineup, including introducing high-performing, high-volume electric vehicles that are establishing the company as an EV leader.
Savona became vice president, North America Manufacturing and Labor Affairs, and a corporate officer in 2018. His position was expanded in 2021 to include South America production. Earlier in his career, Savona was the company’s director of Global Manufacturing Quality, led North America quality, and managed operations at several of the company’s U.S. manufacturing facilities, among other assignments.
“I couldn’t have dreamed where these 33-plus years would take me professionally and personally,” said Savona. “It’s been a privilege to work at Ford and to grow with and learn
from so many great people, especially the dedicated men and women who make our plants go every day.”
Savona, who served in the United States Army before Ford, is also a senior advisor to the Ford Veterans Network employee group. The network is focused on the contributions and needs of about 6,000 U.S. military veterans employed at Ford, and fosters relationships with and support for active military members and veterans outside the company.
Galhotra said that Currie, like Savona, is recognized for his servant-leadership management style, understanding and providing teams with what they need to be most effective and rewarded – in this case, to deliver great customer quality and value according to the Ford+ plan.
“Bryce is an inspirational manager with high integrity who’s skilled at running large, complex global industrial operations,” Galhotra said. “He constantly challenges himself and the people around him to imagine and achieve more on behalf of customers.”
Currie’s Ford team will comprise more than 70,000 people – most of them members of the United Auto Workers in the U.S. and Unifor National in Canada – at 30-plus facilities. He’ll partner with Product Engineering, Supply Chain Management and other functions to reach and sustain higher quality and lower complexity, waste and costs through implementation of the Ford Operating System.
Over three years at Johnson Controls, Currie deployed lean manufacturing principles and digital management tools to transform an operation spanning nearly 90 plants and 120 distribution centers around the world. Many of about 30,000 people across those sites are represented by the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – known by the acronym SMART – as well as the UAW and other unions.
During six years at GE Aviation he was a corporate officer with global responsibility for the jet engine assembly, overhaul, repair and test network, including on-wing support, as well as the unit’s lean system and overall quality. At TRW Automotive (now part of ZF Group) from 2001 to 2014, Currie helped overhaul the company’s worldwide manufacturing systems.
The move to Ford is something of a homecoming for Currie, who while based in Southeast Michigan with TRW was named by Crain’s Detroit Business to its annual “40 Under 40” list of industry high achievers. A brother-in-law and niece are employed by Ford; Currie’s mother- and father-in-law retired from the company.
“I see this less about returning to the auto industry than being part of creating something new and exciting,” Currie said. “Ford is helping define and deliver a future made possible by smart, connected gas and electric vehicles, and that’s very appealing to me.”
A certified “black belt” quality engineer, Currie started his career at AlliedSignal Bendix (now part of Honeywell). He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University and a master’s degree in business administration, with an emphasis on supply chain management, from Western Michigan University’s Haworth College of Business.