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US automaker Ford confirmed Thursday that veteran insider Mark Fields will replace Alan Mulally as chief executive on 1 July.
Fields, currently Fordâs chief operating officer, had long been seen as Mulallyâs heir apparent. He was centre stage at this yearâs Detroit auto show unveiling the aluminium model of Fordâs best-selling F-150 pickup and a limited edition Mustang GT.
Fields, 53, is a Harvard Business School graduate who joined Ford in 1989 and ran its North American operations through the depth of the recession. Ford was the only major US automaker not to file for bankruptcy.
Mulally, 68, a long-time Boeing executive, was hired by Ford in 2006 to turn around a company making massive losses and facing declining market share. He slashed costs and mortgaged all of Fordâs assets in a move that allowed the company to steer clear of bankruptcy and government-ownership.
Fields becomes the second insider in recent months to take over one of the big American auto manufacturers. Last December General Motors named Mary Barra as its new chief executive, succeeding Dan Akerson, a turnaround specialist appointed by the US Treasury.
At a press conference, chairman Bill Ford thanked Mulally for his leadership and for the smooth leadership transition.
âWe have had very few, and maybe never, have we had a planned smooth transition,â Ford said. âAlan is a hall of fame CEO, and we all know that. But most hall of fame CEOs cannot let go.â
In a statement, Ford said of Fields, âMark 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.â
Fields faces some major issues as he moves into the top job. Last week Ford announced its first-quarter profits were down 39% from the same period last year, hit by higher warranty costs and South American currency losses. The company also faces issues in Europe, where a sluggish economy and restructuring costs are still taking a toll, and in Russia, a country Ford has invested in heavily, as the political crisis over Ukraine intensifies.
However Ford still expects to make a pre-tax profit of between $7bn and $8bn this year. In 2006 Ford lost $12.7bn. âAlan deservedly will be long remembered for engineering one of the most successful business turnarounds in history,â Ford said.