Ford names Fields COO, putting him in line to become chief executive
Mulally overhauls leadership ranks, will remain CEO at least through 2014
Mark Fields will become Ford COO on Dec. 1.
DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. appointed Mark Fields, president of the Americas unit, as COO, putting him in line to succeed Alan Mulally when he retires no sooner than the end of 2014.
Ford also promoted European CEO Stephen Odell to president of Europe, Middle East and Africa. Under Odell, Africa will be realigned with Europe and the Middle East.
Ford said Joe Hinrichs, currently group vice president and head of Asia Pacific Africa, will succeed Fields. Hinrichs is currently president of the Asia Pacific Africa region.
Jim Farley, 50, becomes executive vice president of global marketing, sales and service as well as Lincoln. Farley, currently a group vice president, adds operating responsibility as the senior global leader for Lincoln.
David Schoch becomes president of Asia Pacific. He is currently chairman and CEO of Ford of China. John Lawler becomes chairman and CEO of the China unit. He is currently CFO of Ford Asia Pacific Africa.
The changes take effect Dec. 1.
Ford's North American operations have delivered record profits this year while the automaker is losing money overseas. The automaker's operating profit in South America fell 91 percent in the year's first nine months to $68 million, as heavy price discounting, weakening currencies and changes in government policies ate into earnings. Ford is losing money in Asia, where it's spending $4.9 billion to expand in China. The automaker projects more than $1.5 billion in European losses this year and again next year.
Those challenges now fall to Fields as he becomes Mulally's second-in-command. Until now, Mulally hasn't had a COO since he came to Ford from Boeing Co. in September 2006.
Fields, 51, a 23-year veteran of the automaker, led a transformation of Ford's North American operations from record losses four years ago to record profits this year. The company earned $6.47 billion in North America in 2012's first nine months and had an operating profit margin of 11.2 percent in an industry where a 5 percent margin is considered respectable.
Fields' elevation puts him in line to replace Mulally, 67. Mulally will remain as president and CEO through 2014.
"Mark Fields has proved his worth and proved that he has substance," Rebecca Lindland, a Boston-based analyst for consultant IHS Automotive, said in September. "This is somebody who has been in the trenches, who was there before Mulally and will be there after. He can bridge the two worlds and continue the cultural change."
As COO, Fields will be responsible for all business operations, while Mulally will continue to develop his "One Ford" strategy.
Figuring out Europe
"Mark has got to help him figure out Europe, South America and Asia," Lindland said of Mulally. "They still have an awful lot of work to do. They're not out of the woods yet."
Before he began overseeing the Americas in 2005, Fields gathered extensive experience overseas. He was executive vice president of Ford of Europe and also ran the automaker's European luxury brands, Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin and Volvo, which Mulally later sold.
From 2000 to 2002, Fields was CEO of Mazda Motor Corp., in which Ford had a controlling stake at the time. He led a turnaround at Mazda with several Ford executives with whom he later worked closely to revive Ford's North American business. Ford lost $30.1 billion from 2006 through 2008 and earned $29.5 billion in the last three years, mostly in Fields' North American operations.
Fields won early praise from Mulally for going against Ford's culture of hiding bad news by becoming the first executive to admit a problem to the new boss. Shortly after arriving from Boeing Co. in September 2006, Mulally instituted a Thursday morning meeting where his top executives are required to report on their initiatives using a green, yellow and red color code to indicate progress, caution and a problem.
Fields was the first to put up a red light because a balky tailgate latch had halted production of the Edge SUV. Mulally, frustrated no one was reporting problems even though Ford was losing $17 billion in its automotive operations that year, began applauding when Fields revealed his red light.
"Great visibility, Mark," Mulally recalled saying in a 2010 interview. "Is there anything we can do to help you?"
Fields later said he had trepidations about revealing the problem because in Ford's previous culture "finger pointing would have ruled the day."
"When I showed that first red, there was a lot of tension in the room," Fields said in a 2010 interview. "Then Alan clapped."
Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this report
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