CEO Alan Mulally says he decided to step down early because “everything is in place for the future.”
Ford CEO, Alan Mulally, left, joins Chairman Bill Ford, center, and COO Mark Fields in announcing Fields’ promotion to top job.
’s newly appointed CEO Mark Fields says he will adhere to the One Ford plan implemented by his predecessor, Alan Mulally, when he takes the top post July 1.
“We had the Oneplan for a number of years and we all had a hand in creating it,” Fields says in a conference call today. “Our priority is to accelerate the pace of products, bring them to the marketplace and keep the pipeline absolutely full. It’s a story of continuity because we all co-created this.”
Fields does say his management style may differ a bit from that of Mulally, who was well known for treating everyone the same whether they were a C-level executive or a janitor.
“We’re all like snowflakes, all a little bit different,” he says. “But what we share is a burning desire to continue the culture of working together and positive leadership.”
Mulally, 68, steps down after taking the helm in 2006 and leading the then near-bankrupt automaker to sustained profitability. The original plan called for Mulally to turn over the reins at the end of the year, but the executive says he pulled ahead his retirement because the time was right.
“I moved this up because I’m fully confident the team is ready,” he says. “It’s the right time to do it because everything is in place for the future.”
Mulally says he won’t retain his seat on the Ford board upon retirement, which comes as a surprise to industry observers.
Ford Chairman Bill Ford says Fields is the right man for the job, noting the 53-year-old executive has held many top leadership positions at the automaker.
“Mark has been Alan’s partner every step of the way, and the plan we put together and the culture change, Mark was a huge part of that,” he says. “People always say, ‘When Alan leaves the culture will change back.’ I feel it can’t change back, because Mark has been an architect of that culture.”
Fields says the Chief Operation Officer position, which he currently holds, will be eliminated when he takes the CEO post. Executive changes are not expected, he adds, noting the team in place is talented and has what it takes to drive the automaker forward.
“It’s the strongest team I’ve ever been a part of,” he says. “I don’t plan on making changes.”
The promotion of an insider to the CEO position often brings turmoil, as those passed up for the job look for a better opportunity elsewhere.
When news leaked that Fields’ promotion was imminent, many pundits speculated the move might alienate longtime Ford executives, including Joe Hinrichs, president-The Americas, and Jim Farley, executive vice president-global marketing, sales and service and Lincoln.
David Cole, chairman-AutoHarvest and chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, MI, says he doesn’t expect any changes in the top leadership positions, but doesn’t rule it out.
“Any time there’s a couple of candidates for the top spot, the others become targets of headhunters, that is a natural kind of circumstance, so we’ll see,” he tells WardsAuto. “In the case of Farley, he would’ve been a longshot. But Hinrichs, it’s likely he will become COO (at some point).”
Cole says he expects Fields to lead Ford with a steady keel as Mulally did, noting both men share similar personalities in that they’re “coach CEOs” rather than a “king CEO” like Jacques Nasser, who led the automaker from 1998-2001.
“Alan, Mark and Bill know who they are and don’t have to prove themselves,” he says. “Their role is to get a team to function at a higher level.”
While Fields says he will retain the team-oriented management style implemented by Mulally, Bill Ford ensures the company will never again return to a culture of fiefdoms and infighting.
“I feel my role now is to be the institutional memory to make sure we don’t slide back to the old ways,” he says. “Mark has transformed several of our operations around the world into much stronger businesses during his 25 years at Ford. Now, Mark is ready to lead our company into the future as CEO.”