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Fired Ford exec now heads company behind $450,000 supercar

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 5/25/2018 Phoebe Wall Howard
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Video by Los Angeles Times

A top Ford executive fired in February for "inappropriate behavior" has been hired as president of a Canadian company that custom builds the Ford GT supercar carrying a low-end price tag of $450,000.

Raj Nair, former president of Ford North America, is now president and chief operating officer of Markham, Ontario-based Multimatic. In his roles at Ford, he worked with the company and its principals for more than a decade.

"It’s all about taking a great company and making it even better. That’s what Raj is going to do for Multimatic, as someone who has an extensive history in bringing innovative products to the market," said Michael Guttilla, vice president of global sales for Multimatic, which has an office in Southfield.

"This feels like how the Detroit Red Wings would have felt as perennial Stanley Cup championship contenders in 2005 if they had drafted Sidney Crosby," Guttilla said. "It was a great team already and that would've made them even better."

The global auto parts supplier, which has annual sales in excess of $1 billion, designed the first side power door for the Tesla Model S and also builds Ford F-150 suspension components. The firm works with the Detroit 3, as well as BMW and Land Rover.

But everyone talks about the pricey Ford GT that's made to order, for which demand definitely exceeds supply. The supercar is so coveted among car collectors, including comedian Jay Leno, that Ford requires agreements that illustrate the buyer's commitment to owning the car rather than flipping it for a quick profit.

In fact, Ford made headlines last year when the wrestler-turned-actor John Cena sold his Ford GT within weeks. In a case filed in U.S. District Court in Michigan, Ford maintained that Cena, a savvy car collector, promised in his application to own the GT, for which he paid $463,376, for two years. He said the restriction was omitted from his purchasing contract. 

In 2017, Ford sold 89 Ford GT supercars. And from January through April, wealthy individuals purchased 50 Ford GTs. No one will use the term waiting list, but the high-performance vehicles are not coming off any assembly line.

Nair, 53, of Ann Arbor, played such a key role in the development of the supercar that he is commonly referred to as the "father of the GT." He began his new role May 7.

"No one knows the GT better, so it seems like a great match," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Autotrader.

The sudden manner in which Nair left Ford, which caught the industry by surprise, is not a concern for his new employer. 

"At Multimatic, we have the highest ethical standards for all employees, and that extends to Raj Nair as well," Guttilla said. "We've vetted the situation and have absolute confidence that it's not going to be a problem."

Nair was traveling in the United Kingdom on business and couldn't be reached for comment. 

During his time as global chief technology officer at Ford, Nair took great pride in his role in getting the GT into production and racing at Le Mans.

"In 2016, Ford returned to Le Mans and won it — on the 50th Anniversary of Henry Ford II's victory over Ferrari, then dominant at Le Mans," Guttilla noted. "Le Mans is the Super Bowl of endurance racing."

He highlighted Nair's passion for the products as well as his knowledge, perspective and engineering abilities.

Nair posted on FordGTForum.com, a popular site for GT owners, "I’m really excited about joining the Multimatic team and our future. And of course, I’m so happy to be able to stay part of the GT community!" 

The mechanical engineer left his job at Ford after an internal investigation into reports of "inappropriate behavior" determined to be inconsistent with the company's code of conduct, Ford said. The probe was the result of an anonymous tip.

Nair issued a statement in the Ford news release of "sincere regret that there have been instances where I have not exhibited leadership behaviors consistent with the principles of the company." 

He had worked at Ford for 30 years, and held the key leadership role from June 1, 2017, until February 2018. He led all aspects of Ford’s North American business units, having previously served as executive vice president of product development and chief technical officer. He had global responsibility for all aspects of design, engineering, research and product development, and played a key role in the company’s expansion into emerging mobility opportunities. 

Prior to 2012, as vice president of engineering for product development, Nair oversaw all engineering for car, truck and SUV vehicles for Ford and Lincoln.

Nair signed a two-year noncompete agreement with Ford that bars him from working in the automotive industry or for any potential competitors. He agreed to a standard waiver of claims against the company, to cooperate with any future company investigations and litigation "of which he can provide assistance."

Ford declined to comment on Friday, referring questions to Multimatic.

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