NEWSMAKERS: UNITED STATES
|New Ford CEO Fields is about to be put to the test.|
Two years after being appointed chief operating officer, Mark Fields will take the helm as the CEO of Ford Motor Company on July 1st, completing on schedule the long-planned succession plan for outgoing chief executive Alan Mulally. A 25-year Ford veteran, Fields inherits a company that is in much better shape than it has been in a long time. Having been at Mulally’s side since the end of 2012, he has had a front-row seat of the automotive industry’s recent ups and downs and of the cultural changes Mulally brought to Ford. For these reasons, experts expect a smooth transition and are confident that Fields has what it takes to successfully continue the work of his predecessor.
“I have very high expectations,” says David Cole, chairman of AutoHarvest, a research group in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “He is very good, very smart, and he has learned a lot in the last couple years—and you’ll see that demonstrated in the future.”
Although Ford, and the automotive sector in general, is steadier now than in the recent past, Cole says this is a “fast and furious business” where “things are changing very quickly and are always unpredictable.” For example, in January, Mary Barra became the CEO of General Motors and was acclaimed as the first woman in the driver’s seat of a global automaker. Soon thereafter, an ignition switch problem that was linked to 13 deaths and led to the recall of millions of cars put her in a much more uncomfortable position. “In the same way, Fields is going to have to react to things as they develop,” says Cole.
Fields’s abilities will soon be put to the test by the launch of the latest F-150, Ford’s most popular vehicle. “The profitability on these vehicles is very high, so that really is the bread and butter for Ford,” says Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst and director of pricing and industry analysis, Edmunds.com, an online resource for automotive information. “The company is taking a risk with this truck, with new production techniques and materials, so a successful rollout is going to be one of Fields’s first and biggest challenges.”