Ford's Mulally to Remain as CEO at Least Through 2014 (Update 2)

Updated with quotes from Bill Ford and Alan Mulally

DETROIT -- ( TheStreet) -- Alan Mulally, the superstar executive who turned around Ford ( F), will remain president and CEO at least through 2014, the automaker said Thursday.

Mark Fields will become chief operating officer effective Dec. 1, and clearly appears to be Mulally's eventual successor, although that was not specifically stated on Thursday as Ford announced a series of key management changes.

"I love Alan and he's done a wonderful job," Executive Chairman Bill Ford said Thursday, on a conference call with analysts and reporters. "I never enjoyed working with anyone so much. I'd like him to stay forever. But part of being a great CEO is having a great team."

Mulally said he will now focus more on the long-term strategic development of the OneFord plan he developed, as well as on supporting Fields.

"I'm not going anywhere," Mulally said. "I'll be there with him and I'll support him. I'm good help. I think I'll be able to help him out a lot.

"Mark will take over leadership of our automotive units" and will lead the key Thursday meeting, Mulally said. He "is going to take over the responsibility of leading the business plan review ... I am going to step back from that."

Asked to describe Mulally's best contribution to the company, Bill Ford called him "Someone who can react to reality -- (that is) perhaps the greatest attribute Alan has brought to our company. The world changes, and it sometimes changes dramatically, almost overnight. The way Alan works, and its been so productive for our company (and) a hallmark of the plan, is that we're able to pivot and move if reality surfaces in a way that causes us to need to react.

"In our industry over the last 30 years, we've had a decided lack of that," he said.

Fields will be responsible for all business operations, and will be one of four executives reporting to Mulally. Four automotive business units and a dozen other teams will report to Fields.

In other changes, Joe Hinrichs was named executive vice president and president of the Americas, succeeding Fields. Hinrichs is currently group vice president of Asia Pacific Africa. Stephen Odell will become executive vice president of Europe, Middle East and Africa. Odell currently runs Ford of Europe and is gaining more territory.

Jim Farley will become executive vice president of Global Marketing, Sales and Service and Lincoln; Farley, currently a group vice president, adds operating responsibility as the senior global leader for Lincoln. David Schoch replaces Hinrichs as group vice president of Asia Pacific; he is currently CEO of Ford of China. John Lawler becomes CEO of Ford Motor China; he is currently CFO, Ford Asia Pacific Africa.

Mulally, 67, arrived at Ford in September 2006 and has presided over a widely applauded turnaround, one that is considered all the more impressive because turnarounds by rivals GM ( GM) and Chrysler required bankruptcies and bailouts, while Ford did not.

Last week, Ford announced its plans to turn around its European division, which is expected to lose between $1 billion and $1.5 billion this year. The blueprint for the Europe turnaround, Mulally has said, is similar to the one that worked in the U.S.

Mulally's future has been a subject of speculation ever since he turned 65. Bill Ford has said repeatedly that Mulally can stay as long as he wants to. In mid-morning trading, Ford shares were down 12 cents at $11.04.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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