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4:25 pm
Mon April 21, 2014

Reports: Ford Motor Co. to make CEO succession announcement

Ford CEO Alan Mulally sitting on a Honda. Just kidding. It's a Ford.
Credit Ford Motor Company

The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, and The Detroit News report that Ford Motor Company will soon announce that Mark Fields, Ford's Chief Operating Officer, will be its next CEO – and give a firm date for current CEO Alan Mulally's departure from the company he has led since 2006.

Mulally has consistently said he'd stay at the helm of the second-largest auto company in the U.S. until the end of 2014.  But the reports say Mulally will now leave earlier.

Bloomberg says the announcement may be made as early as May 1, citing "two people familiar with the pending announcement." 

Mulally is 68, and he is widely credited with steering the company through the recession without seeking bankruptcy protection – as Ford's Detroit competitors, GM and Chrysler, had to do. 

From Bloomberg News:

“A lot of great CEOs leave and then there’s chaos behind them,” Executive Chairman Bill Ford, great-grandson of founder Henry Ford, said April 16 on Bloomberg TV. “Alan and I have talked about that – the importance of the final act of a great CEO is having a great transition.”

Mark Fields, age 53, has been considered the heir apparent to Mulally for some time, especially after Fields was promoted from president of the Americas to chief operating officer last year.

Fields' "Way Forward" cost-cutting and quality improvement plan became the template for Mulally's One Ford plan – which resulted in significant white and blue collar layoffs, plant closings, along with a renewed focus on quality, fuel efficiency and appeal.

Mulally is also widely credited with making significant improvements to Ford's dysfunctional culture, insisting on transparency and teamwork.

He established a mandatory weekly meeting with his top people, with each presenting color-coded PowerPoint slides to indicate the status of their programs. Green meant everything was fine; yellow meant some problems; red indicated a serious problem.

At first, the PowerPoint slides were as green as an Irish pub on St. Patrick's Day, although the company had just posted a huge loss.

Then president of the Americas, Mark Fields, was the first to take Mulally at his word that he wanted the truth, showing the first red slide, for a program delay. He was not sacked.  

As COO, Fields has assumed control of those weekly meetings, and he says he plans to continue them once Mulally leaves.