Ford CEO stays mum on Europe, retirement plans

NEW YORK/DETROIT, Sept 18 Tue Sep 18, 2012 11:53am EDT

NEW YORK/DETROIT, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co, which expects to lose more than $1 billion in Europe this year, will restructure operations in the region, although Chief Executive Alan Mulally kept a lid on details of the overhaul at a New York media event on Tuesday.

"There is a tremendous decrease in demand, but we're absolutely committed to Europe," Mulally said on the sidelines of the event to launch a redesigned version of the Fusion mid-size sedan. "That will involve some restructuring."

He declined to discuss specific plans. Ford's sales in Europe fell 29 percent in August, while overall industry sales fell 8.5 percent.

Europe is one of the big challenges for the No. 2 U.S. automaker. The prospect of Mulally's retirement, possibly by the end of next year, has also prompted speculation and concern by analysts and investors.

Ford's board of directors is leaning toward promoting Mark Fields, the head of North and South American operations, to chief operating officer. The move would make him the frontrunner to succeed Mulally, 67.

When asked about his retirement plans, Mulally simply said he was "pleased to continue to serve as CEO of Ford." He noted that the company has a strong bench of leaders.

"Please don't vote me off," he joked to reporters.

Ford shares were up 0.2 percent at $10.41 at midday on the New York Stock Exchange.