Tobermore man now leading Ford’s South American operations

Tobermore man Lyle Watters is now president of Ford South America
Tobermore man Lyle Watters is now president of Ford South America

A Tobermore man who has established a successful career with Ford, has been promoted to head of operations for the company in South America.

Lyle Watters, 51, who graduated from Queen’s University with an MBA in 1987, began his role on Monday (August 1) as vice president of Ford Motor Company and president of Ford South America.

His new role will subsequently see him look after all Ford operations in South America, having previously been chief financial officer and vice-president of Finance and Strategic Planning for Ford of Europe. Lyle also formerly acted as chief financial officer for Ford South America and before this, served as director of Business Strategy at Ford of Europe.

The son of Desmond and Marion Watters, of D Watters Funeral Services in Tobermore, Lyle said he was keen to study business and saw it as a way to create opportunities.

He told the Mail: “To me, studying business at university was about creating opportunities for the future and Queen’s provided just that.

“I did consider joining the family business and was engaged in it throughout my school and university years. It’s a very special business and I learned a lot about what a service culture really means.”

One of the key recruiters at Queen’s at the time however, was Ford, and it was them who ultimately hired Lyle through their “excellent graduate programme”.

“This, coupled with my passion for cars, made it feel like a natural fit,” he said. “Ford offers an excellent career structure. And, if you’re hard working, resilient, flexible and open to pursuing opportunities, Ford will match your commitment in equal measure.”

Having now worked for Ford for almost 29 years, and with his new promotion Lyle’s sixteenth role within the company, the Tobermore man has certainly been rewarded for all his hard work. “I’ve been privileged to work in both the automotive and financial services divisions, and the Europe, Middle East Africa, North and South American business units,” he said. “From 2000–2005 I also served as Financial Controller as Ford’s Premier Automotive Group - that included brands such as Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin and Volvo cars.”

Having previously lived in Brazil, Lyle and his family are “thrilled to be returning and reconnecting with old friends”.

The former Magherafelt High School pupil added that the international aspect was a definite highlight, and gave them the opportunity to travel, experience different cultures and “learn new languages.”

Another of Lyle’s roles in recent years has been with the Essex Police & Crime Commission, after which he was invited to join a small group of independent advisors in 2014. As part of this, he helped to “inform the thinking of both the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Chief Constable of Essex Police, as they make decisions about the future of policing”.

“It provided an opportunity to use my business experience to help support the wider community,” he told the Mail.

The businessman also made a return to his former school last year, when he spoke at prize-giving and advised pupils to always aim high on their academic journeys.

“If you really focus and apply yourself, you will be surprised by what you can achieve,” he said.

“Appreciate and respect those around you. Leading a successful organisation isn’t about one individual, but about harnessing the talent of all employees. It’s important you listen to your team - often the quietest person in the room can have the best idea.”

But Lyle said the job has certainly kept him on his toes.

“It’s a very competitive market; every day is different and always presents new challenges,” he said. “It’s important to remember that serving the customer is at the heart of everything we do.”

However, despite his many responsibilities and while his job may take him all over the world, Lyle always makes time for what matters most.

“Being in a job that requires extensive travel, it’s important to make time for my family,” he said. “Going back home to Northern Ireland for Christmas is always special.”