Dearborn, Mich. - No fewer than three standing ovations occurred Thursday in the World Headquarters auditorium as company leadership announced the retirement of President and CEO Alan Mulally, which will take place July 1, 2014, and the appointment of current Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields as his successor.
Bill Ford applauded Mulally for his many accomplishments as president and CEO, explained why Fields is the best choice as successor and talked about the upcoming transition.
"In many ways this is a historic day, and it fulfills a dream that I have had, which is if you look back at the history of our company we have had very few – maybe we’ve never had – a smooth and planned transition, even back to my great-grandfather’s time. So this is a big deal for Ford," said Executive Chairman, Bill Ford.
Ford also recalled his first meeting with Mulally. He said the two of them discussed developing the next generation of management and the Ford culture and how to remove the things that were standing in the way of Ford achieving greatness. Then Ford turned to Mulally and said, "So here we are 8 years later – and we did it."
Ford went on to say that he will miss Mulally not only as a great CEO but also as friend, something that Ford said doesn’t happen often in this business, and was quick to add that Mark Fields was right by Mulally’s side through and the company’s growth over the past eight years and is no doubt ready to lead the company going forward.
"It has been really gratifying to watch how Mark has grown and really became a battle-tested executive through it all. Mark loves our company, he loves our products and most importantly he loves our people. I feel great about the fact that he, in my opinion, he is going to be another great CEO," Ford said.
"Alan, on behalf of all the men and women of Ford Motor Company, for everything you have done, thank you so much. You have been the absolute best," said Ford to an audience of employees and media that immediately stood up and applauded.
"Wow, that makes my eyes water," said Mulally. In his comments, Mulally reiterated some of those early discussions he had with Bill Ford and then moved into pointing out the strengths of Mark Fields.
"A few comments about Mark," said Mulally. "Mark and his team have created this Ford that we all know and love. Not only is he a proven executive, but maybe the most important thing about Mark is that he understands the importance of talented people working together. He understands the management system we have put in place and he absolutely treasures the Ford employees and the entire extended enterprise," said Mulally.
"I was so proud to be a member of the board of directors yesterday and to vote for Mark Fields to be the next CEO. Mark, you’re going to be great. I am so proud of you and so pleased that you get this opportunity to lead this fantastic company, congratulations," said Mulally.
"Alan, thank you for leaving us this gift of a transformed Ford that we can build on going forward. It is tremendous," said Fields. "Alan, you showed us the power of the One Ford plan, but more importantly, you showed us a culture of transparency, of positive leadership and an idea of what working together can accomplish."
"It’s just an incredible honor to build on Alan’s legacy and to lead this great company and to work with the best darn team in the industry, it is the best team I have ever seen and I feel very fortunate," Fields added.
Looking ahead, Fields noted, "I am just really excited to have a great transition with Alan … and I also want to make another thing clear. Our One Ford Plan that has worked so well over the years is going to continue to serve us well. And also our working together culture has been such an integral part of our success and I am personally committed to not only maintaining that, but to nurture it with the rest of the team as we go forward."
Following these statements, the floor was opened up for questions from the media and employees both in the room and on the phone listening from all over the world. Employees in general noted they were sad to see Mulally move on, but felt very confident in the selection of Mark Fields as his successor.
Teri Mayne, a human resources associate, told @Ford she felt very good about the transition and the plan to continue with the working together mentality. "What I really like about working at Ford is the One Ford plan and how everybody from the top down believes in it."
Dan Cross, an engine designer who has been with the company for 36 years, experienced life before Alan Mulally came on board, and remembers those first days under his leadership. "It was very exciting. It was worrisome to start with, especially when they brought in a CEO that was not from the auto industry," said Cross. "But the change in culture started immediately and it progressed continually. Excitement was building because we were hearing all the things that we wanted to hear but we were also seeing actual evidence that, yes, things are changing we are going forward."
With regard to the handing over of the torch, Cross said, "I think this is a great transition and we are really looking forward to it. Mark Fields is a very brilliant man. He has done his time through various positions within the company, so he’s a very well-seasoned executive, and we are looking forward to the change."
Martin Delonis, advanced product strategy, electrified products, shared that he also feels confident about the transition. "I feel good about knowing the date of the transition. I think a lot of us knew it was coming, especially when the COO position was created and Mark stepped into it. And what’s great now is to know when it’s going to happen – especially with all the Microsoft talk and other speculation. I think it’s really good that now we know how it’s going to proceed and that it will go as smoothly as we all hoped it would."
Delonis, who has been with the company for about one year, added that he, too, appreciates the One Ford Plan Mulally established, "The One Ford Plan really does stick and the family atmosphere is real. A funny thing that I’ve run into before I joined is I heard a lot of people refer to it as Ford’s – as possessive as opposed to Ford Motor Company. I never knew what that meant until I was here for a while and learned that the family feel that makes the possessive make sense is real. It’s a great time to be here and I think it’s going to be an exciting transition and future."