Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Ford Motor will be fine when CEO decides to move on

Ford Motor CEO Alan Mulally has led one of the great corporate transformations, but his legacy is not in profits – billions of them these past few years – but in creating a senior executive team, any one of whom could quite effectively run the company and carry on the relatively new "One Ford" way of doing things.

The obvious heir apparent is COO Mark Fields, who's 52. Fields chairs the weekly Thursday morning management meeting of senior vice presidents. Mulally sits in, but Fields runs the show. And these are must-attend meetings for all of Ford's senior brass.

A couple of years ago, I was doing an early Thursday morning interview with Joe Hinrichs, now president of the Americas at Ford, at the company's world headquarters. At precisely 7:55 a.m., in popped Mulally. We had 20 seconds of chit-chat and introductions, at which point he turned to Hinrichs and said, "See you at eight, Joe; you're the star today."

Story continues below advertisement

As Mulally said this, Hinrichs was gathering the papers on his desk, readying to go down the hall from his office to the conference room. I asked, "Is anyone ever late to the meeting?"

"Occasionally," Hinrichs said.

"What happens if someone is late a second time?"

"It's never happened," Hinrichs said.

The executives in that meeting – in person or by video conference – are the leadership at Ford. If for some reason Fields is unable or unwilling or fails to get the CEO appointment, Hinrichs could quite conceivably get the job. Or it could be Steve Odell, who runs Ford of Europe. Or one of the others in that room, including Jim Farley, head of global marketing and the Lincoln brand.

My point: Ford has a number of senior people ready, able and (I assume) willing to take the top job. There is a succession plan in place and it's flexible because the "team of rivals" in that Thursday morning meeting all publicly own the One Ford mantra that has become gospel.

When Mulally leaves, Ford will be fine. Perhaps the company will be better for it, in fact. Young, fresh new leadership can do that.

Story continues below advertisement

If you have questions about driving or car maintenance, please contact our experts at globedrive@globeandmail.com.

Follow us on Twitter @Globe_Drive.

Add us to your circles.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Report an error
About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.