Ford CEO seeks to reassure he still engaged in daily operations

DETROIT Tue Jan 14, 2014 1:52pm EST

DETROIT Jan 14 (Reuters) - Alan Mulally, credited with reviving Ford Motor Co's fortunes since taking the helm in 2006, emphasized on Tuesday that he remains deeply engaged in setting the long-term strategy and day-to-day operations of the second-largest U.S. automaker.

"I'm still doing everything I did," he told reporters in a wide-ranging conversation on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show. "I'm just spending more time on the longer term issues and I'm right there on the day-to-day issues. I'm the CEO."

His remarks came about a week after he removed himself from the sweepstakes to become the next CEO of Microsoft Corp following months of speculation. He also reiterated that he planned to stay at Ford through the end of this year.

Mulally spoke a day after Ford unveiled a revamped version of its top-selling F-150 truck made almost entirely out of aluminum, which the company hopes will widen its lead over rivals General Motors Co and Chrysler Group LLC in the lucrative truck segment.

Ford originally announced Mulally's plans to remain at the automaker in late 2012, as part of a series of changes, including the promotion of Mark Fields, Mulally's eventual successor, to chief operating officer.

As COO, Fields now runs the weekly "business plan review," part of the structural changes implemented by Mulally.

People close to Ford said last year that its newly promoted executives have been making a mark on the company while Mulally contemplated the Microsoft role as well as setting the long-term vision of the company.

Those longer-term issues include Ford's growth overseas as well as how to serve the growing number of urban-dwelling consumers for whom buying a vehicle is impractical.

But this does not mean he has taken his hands off the wheel, Mulally said. He said he has now moved just one chair over from Fields and participates in every meeting.

"It's not like I'm doing one or the other," Mulally said. "Mark runs the BPR (business plan review) in the leader's chair and I'm right there with him every step of the way."

Ford shares were up 1.7 percent at $16.39 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday afternoon.