The 68-year-old Mulally is credited with transforming the No. 2 U.S.
automaker from a money-loser to a company that expects to realize a
pretax profit of up to $8 billion this year after joining in 2006
from Boeing Co.
Mulally, who was in the running for the top job at Microsoft Corp
late last year, did not say what was next for him. Ford's CEO change
takes effect on July 1.
The ascension of 53-year-old Fields as the next CEO, which the
company's board approved on Wednesday, was expected, but the timing
had been unclear. Mulally said the transition was moved up from
year-end because he felt the team and Fields were ready.
Fields, who promised to hew to his predecessor's strategy, said his
current COO position would not be filled when the CEO change occurs,
adding in a later interview that the management team structure
without that position was "appropriate."
When asked whether he considered promoting Joe Hinrichs, president
of the Americas and an executive perceived by many in the auto
industry as a rising star, Fields told Reuters that Hinrichs had a
"really big job now running North America. He's very talented and
he's got a bright future."
Mulally said in a later interview that he had no concerns that
Hinrichs would leave as he is intimately involved in setting the
Fields also said he would stay in touch with Mulally even though he
will leave the company board. Fields pointed out that Mulally
remains a Ford shareholder. Asked why he was not remaining on Ford's
board, Mulally said it was the right time for him to leave and turn
it over to the next team.
WASH, RINSE, REPEAT
Analysts said Fields will inherit a much stronger company than
Mulally did, one with a highly profitable North American operation
underpinned by the top-selling F-150 large pickup truck. Ford also
has a growing share of the China auto market, the world's largest,
and is seeing a nascent recovery in Europe.
Wall Street does not expect big changes given Fields has been a
major architect of the turnaround plan under Mulally.
"You know the plan, you know how to work the plan," Morgan Stanley
analyst Adam Jonas said. "Mark (Fields) calls it 'wash, rinse and
The biggest challenge awaiting the new CEO is the launch this autumn
of a redesigned, more aluminum-intensive version of the F-150, a key
profit generator for the company, analysts said. UBS analyst Colin
Langan called the new truck "a potential game changer in the
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Ford is introducing a company-record 23 new vehicles this year, most
of them in North America. Those launches also will be a test for
Fields, who has spent the last year focusing on improving quality.
MULALLY'S NEXT MOVE?
Fields said on Thursday that he does not plan changes to the
company's leadership team, and said his primary focus will be to
continue and accelerate progress on the "One Ford" plan established
by Mulally. That strategy calls for sharing of engineering and
design of vehicles around the globe to improve quality and cut
"It's a story of continuity," Fields told a roomful of more than 400
employees and reporters at Ford's headquarters in Dearborn,
Mulally is expected to seek another high-profile job. In 2012, he
discussed a role in the Obama administration, but ultimately
committed to two more years at Ford.
Bill Ford, great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford, said he
would make sure the automaker does not revert to a corporate culture
he once described as having "more intrigue than czarist Russia."
Bill Ford, who preceded Mulally as chief executive and is the
company's executive chairman, said the automaker looked at outside
candidates to replace Mulally, but quickly decided Fields was the
Mulally said he has not decided on his plans after July 1 as he was
focused on ensuring a smooth transition but he was looking forward
to the next opportunity and was confident in Fields as his
successor. "I have nothing left to teach him," he said.
Ford shares were down 1 percent at $15.99 on Thursday afternoon on
the New York Stock Exchange.
(Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Matthew Lewis)
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