(Adds details about Mulally, Ford annual meeting, company
historical stock performance)
By Ben Klayman
DETROIT, April 21 Ford Motor Co will soon
name Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields as successor to Chief
Executive Alan Mulally, a person familiar with the plans said on
Mulally, the 68-year-old executive credited with reviving
Ford's fortunes since taking its helm in 2006, will step down
before the end of the year, said the person, who asked not to be
identified discussing the company's plans. Fields, 53, was named
COO in December 2012 and has been seen as Mulally's successor.
"It's really close," the person said. Bloomberg earlier
reported that Ford may make an announcement as early as May 1.
Ford's annual meeting in Delaware is scheduled for May 8.
A Ford spokeswoman declined to comment.
"We do take succession planning very seriously," Ford
spokeswoman Susan Krusel said. "We do have succession plans in
place for all of our key leadership positions, but for
competitive reasons we do not discuss them."
Mulally is far from retiring and has long been exploring
other high-profile positions to follow his Ford tenure. There
was talk starting last year that he would take the top job at
Microsoft, a position that eventually went to Satya
Nadella. In 2012, he discussed a role in the Obama
administration, but ultimately committed to two more years at
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; growing share of China auto market, the world's largest;
and a nascent recovery in Europe. Since Mulally took over as
CEO, Ford's stock price has almost doubled.
Execution will be the name of the game for Mark Fields,
whereas recovery and transformation were the biggest challenges
Mulally faced on Day One," Gabelli & Co analyst Brian Sponheimer
"Fields is inheriting a company in much better shape than
when Alan Mulally took over. It's a completely transformed
company," Sponheimer added, referring to the company's shift to
more global vehicle platforms to save money and speed product
development. "A lot of the headaches that Alan Mulally had to
handle, including the recession in 2008 and 2009, are behind
Last December, Ford warned that the cost of launching new
vehicles and a deteriorating Venezuelan economy would dent 2014
profits, sending its stock to its biggest one-day percentage
drop in more than two years. This year, Ford is launching a
record 23 global products, including a new version of the
Those launches also will be a test for Fields, who has spent
the last year focusing on improving quality.
In January, Mulally ended speculation that he was in the
running for the top job at software giant Microsoft and said he
would remain at Ford at least this year. He emphasized during
the Detroit auto show that month that he remained deeply engaged
in Ford's day-to-day operations as well as setting long-term
However, sources previously said it was unlikely Mulally
would stay through 2014 and was looking for another high-profile
job. Ford's board was frustrated by Mulally's courtship of
Microsoft, the sources said.
Mulally spurred a cultural change that helped the company
take quicker action and make bolder bets, analysts, executives
and other industry observers have said. His push helped the
automaker avoid the federal bailouts required by General Motors
Co and Chrysler Group LLC.
One such risk is Ford's overhaul of its top-selling F-150
truck, unveiled in January. The truck's body is made almost
entirely out of an aluminum alloy, which Ford bets will widen
its lead over rivals General Motors Co and Chrysler Group
LLC in the lucrative segment.
In late 2012, Ford first announced that Mulally would remain
at Ford until at least the end of 2014. This was part of a
series of changes that included the promotion of Fields to COO.
As COO, Fields runs Ford's weekly "business plan review" and
manages day-to-day operations.
An exit by Mulally in 2014 would mark the second
high-profile changeover in the CEO position at an American
automaker as Mary Barra took over at GM in January. She has
since been dealing with the fallout from defective ignition
switches linked to at least 13 deaths.
(Additional reporting by Rohit T. K. in Bangalore; Editing by
Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Richard Chang and Andrew Hay)