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DETROIT | Ford Motor Co. has named its first female executive vice president in its 102-year history as part of a series of moves intended to boost Ford's flagging North American operations, the company said Thursday.

Anne Stevens, 56, was named executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Americas, a new position that makes her one of the highest-ranking women in the auto industry. Stevens previously served as Ford's group vice president of Canada, Mexico and South America. She joined the company in 1990.

Stevens will be in charge of product development, manufacturing and purchasing in the Americas. She will report to Mark Fields, who recently was named executive vice president of Ford and president for the Americas.

"Anne is an exceptionally focused and proven leader in this industry," Fields said. He said Stevens has made significant improvements in vehicle quality and oversaw a profit resurgence in South America and Mexico and increased market share in Canada.

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Ford also named Derrick Kuzak group vice president of product development for the Americas. Kuzak, 54, replaces Phil Martens, who has left the company. Kuzak is currently vice president of engineering for North America.

Ford also named Dave Szczupak group vice president of engineering, replacing Roman Krygier, who is retiring. Szczupak, 50, is currently group vice president of powertrain operations.

Ford's board of directors approved the changes Wednesday, and they are effective Nov. 1.

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