DEARBORN (CBS Detroit) Ford confirms that it’s elevating President of the Americas Mark Fields to the new post of Chief Operating Officer. But, at the same time, the company says CEO Alan Mulally will stay on through at least 2014.
“Alan has lead our team to deliver strong performance and results,” said Executive Chairman Bill Ford. “He’s also created a culture of positive leadership and working together that have become institutionalized at every level of our company.”
Ford warned observers not to read anything else into this announcement, despite speculation that this puts Fields in line to succeed Mulally as CEO.
The new job will put Fields into control of day-to-day operations. Mulally will work on long term strategy.
“I’ve not had a COO before,” said Mulally. “But, I’m really looking forward to nurturing Mark and supporting this team.”
The company also made several other leadership change announcements, all effective Dec. 1, including naming Joe Hinrichs, as executive vice president and president of the Americas; Stephen Odell, executive vice president and president of Europe; Jim Farley, executive vice president of global marketing, sales and service; and David Schoch, now group vice president and president of Asia Pacific.
Fields has lead operations in Ford’s largest and most important divison for the last seven years. Before that, he won praise for turning around Mazda operations. In recent years he has been seen as a rising star within the company.
“Mark Fields is the natural choice for the COO post at for Ford as he is an excellent strategist with a deep understanding of all facets of the company,” said Jesse Toprak, Senior Analyst at TrueCar.com. “His international experience will be an added bonus for Ford as the bulk of their growth is expected to come from outside of the North American market in the next decade. European market can particularly benefit from Field’s carefully calculated progressive management style.”
Edmunds.com analyst Michelle Krebs praised Fields as somebody who has turned North America into a “bright spot” when it comes to Ford’s earnings. She said investors will likely be happy that Mulally is sticking around for at least two more years.
“Wall Street is surely breathing a sigh of relief, since fear had swirled that Ford would revert to its old ways of backbiting and fiefdoms without Mulally keeping the place in check.”
Bill Ford also took note of how Mulaly has changed Ford’s culture.
“The culture that exists here at Ford today is so different, and so much healthier,” he said. “People just enjoy it. Nobody wants to go back to the days of empire building and back-biting.”