Ford Motor Company was founded by Henry Ford and incorporated on June 16, 1903. It sells cars and commercial vehicles under the Ford brand and has a small residual stake in Japan’s Mazda. It is one of the big three US carmakers and the Focus and Mondeo models are among its most successful brands.
Ford board open to earlier exit for chief exec Mulally: sources
Deepa Seetharaman and Bernie Woodall in Detroit
Ford Motor chief executive Alan Mulally, credited with driving a culture change that helped save the No. 2 US automaker, may step down sooner than planned, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Under a succession plan outlined late last year, Mulally, 68, was expected to stay on as chief executive until at least the end of next year. But Ford’s board of directors is now open to letting him step down earlier as he explores other roles, two people familiar with the board’s thinking said.
This shift underscores the board’s growing confidence in the executive team’s ability to avoid the missteps that pushed Ford to the brink of collapse before Mulally was hired in 2006. The board has also warmed to chief operating officer Mark Fields, a 24-year Ford veteran who is widely expected to be the next chief executive, according to sources.
Under these circumstances, the board is willing to let Mulally determine the timing of his potential exit, the sources said. Mulally is considering another high-profile job to follow up his tenure at Ford, they said, adding that he had discussed a role in the Obama administration at one point.
Mulally’s name has also been floated as a possible successor for Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, who said in late August that he would retire within a year.
The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because details of Ford’s succession plan are confidential.
When Reuters asked Mulally about his plans, he replied in an email that he is “absolutely focused on serving our Ford.”
“We are having so much fun creating an exciting, sustainable, and profitably growing Ford for everyone,” Mulally said in the email.
Seven years ago this week, Ford poached Mulally from Boeing to revive the automaker, which lost US$12.7 billion in 2006. At the time, Ford was marred by what chairman Bill Ford has described as a culture of “empire-building and back-biting.”
Mulally is credited with creating a more open, collaborative atmosphere that allowed problems to be tackled more quickly. He arranged for Ford to borrow US$23 billion and instituted a plan, dubbed “One Ford,” to simplify and unify product development.
As a result, the automaker was able to avoid bankruptcy and the federal bailouts needed by its US competitors, General Motors and Chrysler Group, in 2009.
The Ford board has been considering succession plans for several years as part of its normal review. One concern is cultivating a chief executive who can maintain and strengthen the cultural and strategic changes created by Mulally.
“The question is, when you have such a powerful luminary like Alan walk away, does everybody behave?” Guggenheim Securities analyst Matthew Stover said. Stover said he does not expect Mulally to stay at Ford through the end of next year.
Fields, 52, led Ford’s operations in North and South America from October 2005 until late last year, when his promotion to chief operating officer led many analysts and investors to view him as Mulally’s anointed successor.
As COO, Fields now runs the weekly business review meetings that have been one of the most visible signs of cultural change instituted by Mulally. Meanwhile, Mulally has been stepping back as he weighs his options, the sources said.