In an era of dramatic battles for management control of a corporation, Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) today marked a smooth transition when it announced Mark Fields would replace Alan Mulally as its chief executive officer.
25 year Ford employee takes over
Fields, 53, moves up the ladder from his position as chief operating officer at the company. The appointment was announced this morning.
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No drastic changes planned
After the successful run of Mulally, where the company turned profitable. This year Ford is on track to earn between $7 billion to $8 billion, according to a report on CNBC.com. Mulally is credited with creating a “One Ford” business plan that gave the firm a central focus in a sea of brands and models that were struggling. Mulally changed that and the company, which didn’t require a bailout as did the larger General Motors, thrived.
The CNBC report noted that, on a statistical basis, back to back successful automotive chief executives are rare – and it has not occurred in decades with the “Big 3” firms.
“One Ford” and crisis
Fields is not expected to change the “One Ford” business model. The primary challenge could occur when the CEO is tested in the next corporate crisis, which could occur at any time. Just ask Mary Barra, who took over as CEO of General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) only to be greeted with a surprise product recall that led to a major scandal and uproar that featured brand damaging appearances before Congress and a satire skit on Saturday Night Live, an official barometer of scandal seriousness.
For his part, Fields has experience working at the firm as it dealt with crisis, notably in the Explorer / Firestone recall and how it was kept out of bankruptcy during the 2009 auto industry “meltdown,” as the report describes it.
Fields joined Ford in July 1989 and led the turnaround of Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F)’s businesses in the Americas, Asia and Europe. As chief operating officer, Fields has been overseeing Ford’s global business operation, including product development, manufacturing, purchasing, as well as marketing, sales and service. He also leads the company’s weekly Business Plan Review process and is overseeing the company’s most aggressive product introduction schedule in its 111-year history and its fastest global manufacturing expansion in 50 years. Prior to this role, Fields served as executive vice president and president, The Americas, a position to which he was named in October 2005. He led the development and implementation of a comprehensive restructuring plan for the company’s North America business that resulted in turning around heavy losses to record profits, significantly improving brand favorability and improving operating efficiency. Fields also led Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F)’s South American operations to profitability and its conversion from a legacy product lineup to all-new global products.