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Mulally to stay put as Ford CEO through 2014

Ford Motor Company

At least for now, Ford Motor Company has put to rest months - no, make that years - of intense media speculation about when its CEO Alan Mulally will leave the company.

Ford says the 67-year old executive, widely credited with saving the company, will NOT be leaving his position until at least the end of 2014.

Mulally, a 37-year veteran of Boeing, took the helm of Ford in 2006, as the struggling Detroit automaker faced the prospect of bankruptcy, like its rivals Chrysler and General Motors.

But an unprecedented $24 billion loan from private banks enabled Ford to not only survive the recession, but invest in a major overhaul of its vehicles and business structure. 

"I'd like him to stay forever," says Bill Ford, Jr., Ford's Executive Chairman.  "But part of being a great CEO is also developing a great team."

Concurrent with the "news" that Mulally is NOT leaving, Ford is promoting several top executives, most notably Mark Fields, currently President of the Americas.

Fields will become Chief Operating Officer, and take over running the company's weekly business review meetings, instituted under Mulally. 

Mulally says he'll still attend the meetings, and be "a good helper." 

But he says he will have more time now to focus on Ford's long-term business and product strategy.

Mulally says Fields deserves a lot of credit for creating the "Way Forward" plan, which Mulally modified upon taking over at Ford.

"His relentless implementation of the plan resulted in the performance that you saw this last third quarter," he said.

Ford had its best quarterly earnings in North America in its history.

Ford will also bring Joe Hinrichs, who was in charge of the Asia-Pacific region, to North America, to take Fields' place as President of the Americas.

Steve Odell, who runs Europe, will add Africa to his duties.

And Ford will give Jim Farley responsibility for global marketing along with the Lincoln division.

David Schoch becomes group vice president for Asia Pacific, while John Lawler becomes CEO of Ford Motor China.

Challenges for Ford in the next few years include a restructuring of its Europe business, similar to the painful restructuring that already took place in North America, and catching up to rivals in China, where Ford is still a small player in the world's largest car market.

Ford must also deal with its fall from grace in several quality and reliability surveys.

Much of the problem leads back to the company's MyFordTouch and Sync system -- a touchscreen and voice command system for controlling many functions, such as climate control, radio, navigation and the like.

The system has received frequent and persistent criticism for being too complex and a potential source of driver distraction.

Despite that, Ford is installing the system into more and more of its new vehicles.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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