He replaces Ernie Thompson who died in November 1998. Former Tory MP Roger King has been acting chief executive of the SMMT, but the society declined to comment on whether he would stay after June 1 when Macgowan's appointment becomes effective.
Magowan said he was delighted to be joining the SMMT, following a manufacturing career with British Leyland and Massey Ferguson society in recent years.
'I have spent all my life in manufacturing, and the only time I was not was at the RMIF. The RMIF wanted me because they wanted someone with manufacturing experience because they wanted to improve their relationship with the SMMT,' he said.
'In the motor industry the manufacturing arena faces big challenges. The overwhelming priority is for the SMMT to represent its members strongly during the competition enquiry, but it must also continue to do what it has done very well, which is to make certain the UK is still seen as a good place for component and vehicle manufacturers to be based.'
Macgowan's acting replacement at the RMIF will be David Evans, presently the RMIF's company secretary and international affairs director.