The next CEO of Ford Motor Co. probably will be a company insider, Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. said Friday.
Ford said he is happy with CEO Alan Mulally, who has given no hint of when he will retire. Speaking with reporters during a business conference on this resort island, Ford laughed off a question about Mulally's departure date.
"Part of my job is to look everywhere" when Mulally does step aside, Ford said. "But I really like our inside talent and I think it would be very unusual if we didn't pick somebody from the inside."
At the company's annual shareholders meeting in Wilmington, Del., last month, Mulally brushed aside talk of retirement, He said he thought about stepping down now that the company is profitable.
His retirement is the subject of frequent speculation because he turns 66 in August.
Whenever Mulally decides to step down, Ford has strong depth in its senior executive ranks.
Industry and company insiders say leading contenders for the job would be Mark Fields, president of the Americas; Joe Hinrichs, president of the Asia Pacific and Africa region; Derrick Kuzak, product development chief; global marketing chief Jim Farley; and Stephen Odell, chairman and CEO of Ford of Europe.
Mulally was hired away from Boeing Co. to rescue Ford, which was close to bankruptcy at the time. At Ford, he has cut brands, plants and staff and plowed the savings back into cars and trucks that are now hot sellers. Ford sales are up 12 percent through May, and the company posted its eighth straight quarterly profit in the first quarter. The profit of $2.6 billion was Ford's best first-quarter performance in 13 years.
Mulally has been rewarded for his success. In 2010, he received a pay package worth $26.5 million, up 48 percent from the year before. That included a base salary of $1.4 million and stock and option awards valued at nearly $15 million.
According to an AP analysis for Standard & Poor's 500 companies, Mulally ranked ninth among the top 50 highest-paid CEOs in 2010.
Bill Ford said Mulally has helped groom potential successors by holding regular meetings with company executives.
"It used to be to develop a general manager you would come through a silo like manufacturing, and then very, very late in your career you'd be sort of dropped somewhere else and hoping you could scale up," Ford said.
But Mulally gives executives "access to all the information, all the issues facing the company, and all the opportunities. So it'll be a much better trained group of executives when Alan does decide to leave," Ford said.
AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this story.