A look at the top candidates to succeed Ford's CEO

AP News
Posted: Feb 09, 2012 2:36 PM
A look at the top candidates to succeed Ford's CEO

Here are the leading candidates to succeed Alan Mulally as Ford's CEO. Mulally, 66, says he has no plans to retire. But he acknowledges that the carmaker has a succession plan for every top management position.

_ MARK FIELDS, 51, executive vice president and president of the Americas. Fields has been in his current position since 2005, but has gained significant global experience since he joined Ford in 1989. Fields led Ford's European operations before taking his current job, and he also served as president and CEO of Mazda Motor Co. from 2000 to 2002. Fields also led the company's operations in Argentina.

WHY HE'LL GET THE TOP JOB: Fields proved to be a loyal team player. He worked with Mulally even though he was passed over when Mulally got the CEO job in 2006. He ran a successful turnaround at Mazda _ he was there when the company launched the popular "Zoom Zoom" ads _ and also developed Ford's restructuring plan in 2005.

WHY HE WON'T: While Fields developed Ford's "Way Forward" restructuring plan, he wasn't able to get other executives on board and push it through until Mulally arrived. He's also been the subject of some derision within the company for his deep tan, salesman-like polish and wavy mullet, although the mullet has been replaced in recent years with a more businesslike `do.

_ JOE HINRICHS, 45, president of the Asia Pacific and Africa region; Hinrichs has been in his current position since 2009. Prior to that, he served as Ford's global head of manufacturing and labor and as chief of North American manufacturing. He also served as CEO of Ford's Canadian operations. Prior to joining Ford in 2000, Hinrichs spent a decade at General Motors Co.

WHY HE'LL GET THE TOP JOB: Hinrichs has been a fast-rising star at Ford, where he successfully led the company's landmark 2007 labor talks that shifted billions in health care costs to the United Auto Workers. At his current job, he is leading a major expansion in Asia, which includes the construction of seven plants and the tripling of models available in China to 15 by mid-decade.

WHY HE WON'T: Hinrichs may be considered too young or not experienced enough in all of Ford's markets. He has never held a position in Europe or South America, for example.

_ STEPHEN ODELL, 56, chairman and CEO of Ford of Europe. Odell was formerly president and CEO of Volvo, which was owned by Ford, and was head of operations and of marketing and sales in Europe. Odell has also held positions at several other Ford-owned companies. They include head of marketing at Mazda Motor Co. in Japan, head of Mazda's North American sales, and head of North American marketing and sales for Jaguar.

WHY HE'LL GET THE TOP JOB: Ford signaled its confidence in Odell by leaving him in charge of European sales and marketing after Mulally came on board. Ford also showed its commitment to Odell by plucking him from Volvo to run Ford of Europe when the company decided to sell Volvo.

WHY HE WON'T: Odell's experience may be considered too Euro-centric, despite brief stints in the U.S. and Japan. The company also may want the seasoned executive to stay in the tumultuous European market.