While the transition has long been expected, the moment marks a historic turning point. Mulally, who in 2006 was a newcomer to the industry, will be remembered for leading the company through a massive and painful turnaround.
Fields now comes in as a battle-tested, well-prepared executive who learned much from Mulally.
“I never had anyone else follow me around who wanted to know everything,” Mulally said of working with Fields. “I have nothing left to teach him.”
Every executive is different, Fields said. But he plans to continue to run the company using the same principles, vision and strategic plan put in place by Mulally.
Fields said he will not name a new COO or make any changes to the leadership team, which he said shares a level of camaraderie and trust that was rare through most of his career. “I don’t plan on making any changes because it is a strong team.”
Bill Ford said the need for a vision, a better corporate culture and a leadership team honed to follow the plan was a priority from Mulally’s first day on the job. “From the first day we discussed Ford’s transformation eight years ago, Alan and I agreed that developing the next generation of leaders and ensuring an orderly CEO succession were among our highest priorities,” he said. “Mark has transformed several of our operations around the world into much stronger businesses during his 25 years at Ford. Now, Mark is ready to lead our company into the future as CEO.”
Mulally received a standing ovation as he took the stage.
“We did it,” he said in reference to the turnaround and the smooth CEO transition.
Mulally boldly chose to borrow $23.5 billion just as the economy was beginning to crash. It proved enough to fuel his turnaround plan without the taxpayer support and bankruptcies that General Motors and Chrysler negotiated in 2009. Mulally sold or shuttered Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin and Mercury to focus on Ford and Lincoln.