Ford ( F) named Anne Stevens operating chief of its Americas unit.

The struggling Dearborn, Mich., giant said Stevens' appointment is part of a push by CEO Bill Ford and Americas chief Mark Fields to strengthen and streamline North American automotive operations.

"I have asked Mark Fields to do what's necessary to turn around our North American automotive operations," Bill Ford said. "I fully expect the leadership team he has put in place today for The Americas will drive a turnaround and return a critical part of our business to a sustained level of profitability."

Stevens, 56, will lead core operations including product development, manufacturing and purchasing. She is the first female executive vice president in company history.

"Anne is an exceptionally focused and proven leader in this industry," Fields said. "Her leadership of Vehicle Operations resulted in a significant quality improvement. She has also overseen profit resurgence in South America and Mexico and increased market share in Canada. We expect her to drive our operations toward greater coordination, efficiency, productivity and results."

Ford named Derrick Kuzak group vice president, product development, The Americas, replacing Phil Martens, who left recently to pursue other interests. Roman Krygier, group vice president, global manufacturing, will retire. Replacing Krygier is Dave Szczupak, who becomes group vice president, manufacturing, The Americas.

On Thursday, Ford rose 12 cents to $8.81.

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