Ford Names Mark Fields as CEO

413Mark Fields is set to take over as chief executive of Ford Motor Co. on July 1, and he’ll a face very different set of challenges than those the current boss, Alan Mulally, has tackled over the last eight years.

When Mr. Mulally arrived in 2006, the second largest U.S. auto maker’s main troubles were inside the company—a dysfunctional culture, mounting losses, poor product quality and unending turf battles that hamstrung its performance.

Mr. Fields will take the reins of a company that is expanding and profitable. However, he can’t slow the changes intended to make the results-oriented management style instilled under Mr. Mulally continue. He will also have to keep Ford’s profits in North American rolling and stanch losses in Europe.

Big tests also will come from the outside: Ford is still building operations in China, Russia, India and other emerging markets, and Mr. Fields faces decisions on where next to invest for sales expansion, and what new automotive technologies to back.

The new CEO won’t have an easy time at Ford, some executive experts believe. “Mulally worked wonders,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a senior associate dean at Yale School of Management who knows Messrs. Fields and Mulally. “This company is not on cruise control.”

Ford, as expected, disclosed on Thursday that Mr. Mulally, 68 years old, would retire, and Mr. Fields, 53, and the Dearborn, Mich., company’s chief operating officer for the last 15 months, would be his successor. Ford shares fell 1.5% to $15.91.

Mr. Mulally is retiring but his ever-present smile won’t go away. A U.S. high-tech firm has approached him about joining its board, said a person close to the matter. But it was unclear whether he would accept the position. Mr. Mulally was a candidate to join Microsoft Corp. MSFT -0.99% as CEO before the tech giant chose an insider earlier this year.

In an interview on Thursday, Mr. Mulally declined to discuss his plans. “The most important thing for me right now is this orderly [management] transition,” he said. “But you know how much I like to serve. I do like to serve, but I also like the idea of retirement.”


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