By Deepa Seetharaman
DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co said it will promote Elena Ford to a newly created senior executive position, the first time in nearly two decades that a Ford family member has been elevated to the company's senior ranks.
Elena Ford, great-great-granddaughter of company founder Henry Ford, will lead a new group charged with improving global dealer standards for the No. 2 U.S. automaker, the company said on Thursday.
The move, effective March 1, will make her one of two Ford family members holding spots on the company's roster of corporate officers, along with Executive Chairman Bill Ford. Ford family members own Class B shares in the automaker that control 40 percent of the vote.
The elevation of Elena Ford, 46, is the first time a Ford heir has been promoted to a top role at the automaker since 1994, when Bill Ford was named head of the commercial truck division.
She has been global director of marketing for the past four years, reporting to Jim Farley, Ford's head of global marketing. She will continue to report to Farley.
Also on Thursday, the automaker said Ray Day was being elevated to group vice president of communications, also effective March 1.
The Ford family's faith in Chief Executive Alan Mulally's 2006 turnaround strategy allowed the automaker to ride out the financial crisis three years later. As a result, Ford did not need the federal bailouts required by its U.S. rivals General Motors Co and Chrysler.
Ford now faces a number of challenges, including persistent weakness in Europe, trying to gain market share in the crowded China market, and overhauling its Lincoln brand.
Elena Ford's new role comes as the automaker overhauls its dealership standards for its upscale Lincoln brand in the United States and builds a new network from scratch in China.
(Reporting By Deepa Seetharaman; editing by John Wallace)