Ford Motor named Mark Fields as it new CEO Thursday, succeeding Alan Mulally, who will retire on July 1.
Fields, 53, has been Ford's chief operating officer since late 2012 and has gradually taken over day-to-day leadership responsibilities from Mulally, who has held the reins at Ford for almost eight years.
Mulally has been widely praised for his leadership. He had been rumored to be Steve Ballmer's replacement at Microsoft, but decided against taking the position, which went to Satya Nadella.
"Alan deservedly will be long remembered for engineering one of the most successful business turnarounds in history,” Executive Chairman Bill Ford said in a statement. “Under Alan’s leadership, Ford not only survived the global economic crisis, it emerged as one of the world’s strongest auto companies.
The timing of the 68-year-old Mulally’s imminent departure has been a subject of widespread speculation for more than a year, and the seeming certainty of Fields’ ascent grabbed headlines in April when widespread reports indicated the management changes would be announced ahead of this month’s Ford shareholders meeting.
Fields is expected to largely maintain the profitable business strategy Mulally implemented after joining Ford eight years ago – allowing the company to avoid the bankruptcies that nearly destroyed Detroit rivals General Motors and Chrysler.
Nonetheless, the departure of former Boeing executive Mulally will raise numerous questions – notably whether there will be any additional shake-ups in Ford’s senior management team.
Joe Hinrichs, currently the third in command as Ford’s President of the Americas, is expected to move into Fields’ role as COO. Among those who observers will be asking about is Jim Farley, the current global marketing director and head of the struggling Lincoln brand.