Alumni Profile: James O'Sullivan '76, '86o'sullivan

President and CEO of Mazda North American Operations

Sitting in his office in Irvine, Calif., James O’Sullivan ’76, ’86, president and CEO of Mazda North American Operations (MNAO), can look back on his undergraduate years at University of Detroit with pride and a sense of accomplishment.

“I put myself through school by taking classes during the day and working afternoon or evening shifts. My jobs ranged from pumping gas to loading trucks to working for a cement company, but they taught me the value of hard work and time management,” says O’Sullivan. “When I left U of D, I was ready for the work world.”

Just prior to graduation, O’Sullivan attended a job fair where he expected to make contact with a major accounting firm, but, instead, he was hired for a position in the finance department of Ford Motor Company. While working full time, he returned to U of D evening school and earned his MBA in 1986.

Of his education at U of D, O’Sullivan says, “It was a great learning environment, both academically and because of the Jesuit influence. I was well trained in accounting and finance, and was able to broaden my background in marketing through my graduate studies.  My education definitely contributed to my career success.”

Since joining Ford in 1976, O’Sullivan has had numerous positions of increasing responsibility, primarily in the areas of sales and marketing, in Ford markets throughout the country including Detroit, San Jose, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Irvine. In 1997, he was named to a key management position with the Lincoln Mercury division and, in 1998, he was transferred to California when Ford moved that division to the west coast.

Then in 2003, he was named president and CEO of MNAO. Ford Motor Company owns 34 percent of Japan-based Mazda Motor Corporation. In his current position, O’Sullivan is responsible for overseeing all aspects of Mazda’s U.S., Canadian, Mexican and Puerto Rican operations, except manufacturing.   

“For 2007, Mazda sales in the U.S. are up 10 percent with record results in Canada and Mexico,” states O’Sullivan. “My focus is on keeping the positive momentum going with MNAO that we have achieved over the past few years. I believe that much of our success is due to the global effort and teamwork between Ford and Mazda.”

A native Detroiter, O’Sullivan and his family have strong ties to UDM. His father and two brothers graduated from U of D, while his wife, Anne ’75, is a Mercy College graduate. The O’Sullivans have four children, ranging in age from 15 to 25, all educated in Catholic schools and universities.

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