A new report suggests that Ford may be preparing to promote Mark Fields, its present executive vice president and president of the Americas, to chief operating officer. That move would put Fields directly in line to replace Alan Mulally as CEO of Ford, according to Bloomberg.
The report says that the Ford board of directors will meet this week to consider promoting Fields. Doing so might signal that 67-year-old CEO Mulally could be ready to retire; he's reportedly expected to step down in 2013. Mulally joined Ford in 2006 after running Boeing for several years; in that time, he has never had a COO under him. Mulally is often credited with turning around Ford's reputation and success in the U.S. market -- and helping the automaker weather the financial storm of the recession.
Mark Fields become executive vice president and president of the Americas in 2005, having worked for Ford in various roles since 1989. He's responsible for Ford and Lincoln vehicles in North and South America -- which have remained profitable even as Ford operations in Europe struggle. If Fields becomes Ford's COO, it's unclear who would replace him as president of the Americas.
Ford won't comment on the reports and rumors. A company spokesman said in an emailed statement, "We do not comment on speculation about personnel actions. Regarding succession, Ford Motor Company takes succession planning very seriously, and we have succession plans in place for each of our key leadership positions."
Bloomberg says that two other Ford executives are also in the running to replace Alan Mulally as CEO. One of them is outspoken Jim Farley, group vice president of global marketing, sales, and service. He assumed that role in 2010, having worked with Ford since 2007. Another potential rival is Joe Hinrichs, Ford's group vice president of Asia Pacific and Africa, and CEO of Ford China. Hinrichs assumed those roles in 2009 and 2010, respectively, after starting with Ford in 2000.
Ford's ranks already had a minor shake-up earlier this year when two longtime executives abruptly retired. In February, Ford chief financial officer Lewis Booth retired, having held that position since 2008. Booth helped Ford weather the economic recession that started just as he became CFO. He was succeeded by Ford's former controller, Bob Shanks.
At the same time, group vice president for global product development Derrick Kuzak retired. He was replaced by Ford's former vice president of engineering, Raj Nair. Kuzak was credited with applying the "One Ford" plan, developing the original Escape SUV, and working on the European Ford Focus.