DEARBORN (WWJ) – The Alan Mulally era at Ford is about to come to an end, with the Mark Fields era beginning on July 1.
“I suppose this is not a terribly well-kept secret,” said executive chairman Bill Ford, in announcing the changes to Ford workers, gathered at the company’s headquarters.
Fields had been seen as Mulally’s heir-apparent for years, a role that was cemented when he was promoted to Chief Operating Officer in late 2012. The only question had been when the 68-year-old Mulally would step down.
“Alan’s a real Hall of Fame CEO,” said Ford. “We all know that. But, most Hall of Fame CEO’s have a tough time letting go.”
There were many indications that Mulally was ready to let go a couple of years ago. But, in order to assure a smooth transition, he agreed to stay on through the end of this year. That timetable was moved up six months, the company says, because the team was ready.
This contrasts with Mulally’s arrival in 2006, to a company that was in a state of crisis, and a number of previous executive changes.
“We’ve had very few, maybe never have we had a planned and smooth transition, all the way back to my great-grandfather,” said Bill Ford.
Mulally leaves behind a very different Ford Motor Company, one that’s now consistently profitable, has vehicles that are widely praised–including cars, and has a culture that’s no longer called “toxic.”
“Thank you for leaving us this gift of a transformed Ford,” said Fields, who promised to keep the momentum going.
Fields will not be replaced as Chief Operating Officer, and says he has no plans to change the Ford management team.
“The level of camaraderie, and trust and respect that we have with each other, and the help. You never know where it’s going to come from. We have never had that dynamic in most of my years at the company.”
Mulally is also leaving the Ford board. He did not give any indications of his future plans, but said it was the right time for the change.
“We are absolutely fully confident that the team is absolutely ready. This is the right time to do it. The strategy’s in place. The plan’s in place. We’re performing.”
While Bill Ford expressed confidence that the company would continue to perform under Mark Fields, he also said that his role will be an “institutional memory” to make sure Ford doesn’t slip back into bad habits.
While Ford felt a responsibility to look at outside candidates, he said his preference all along was to promote from within.
“We quickly came back to the fact that we had an incredibly talented group here, and an exceptionally talented person in Mark.”
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