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Ford Motor Co. has set it eyes on change in 2014 by  named Mark Fields to replace Alan Mulally as CEO on July 1, handing the reins to a 25-year company veteran after being saved by an auto industry outsider.

“From the first day we discussed Ford’s transformation eight years ago, Alan and I agreed that developing the next generation of leaders and ensuring an orderly CEO succession were among our highest priorities,” Executive Chairman Bill Ford said in a statement.  “Now, Mark is ready to lead our company into the future as CEO.”

Fields, 53, emerged as Mulally’s likely successor when he was promoted to COO in December 2012. The New Jersey native was tapped to become Ford’s No. 2 executive after leading the automaker’s North American operations from deep losses to record profits.

“Thank you for leaving us this gift of a transformed Ford that we can all build on going forward,” Fields said to Mulally during a news conference today. “I’m so blessed to be surrounded by a talented management team.”

Fields said his COO position won’t be filled.  “I am very passionate about product,” he added. “We will maintain and accelerate that product passion as we go forward.”  Mulally also will be giving up his Ford board seat.  Bill Ford, in an interview later this morning on CNBC, acknowledged the company looked at external candidates.  “Clearly I did look outside because I have to, but you know, I kept coming back internally, as did Alan, to Mark,” Ford said. “He’s part of the culture of Ford that is so positive.”

Mulally, in a CNBC interview, said Fields has been the clear front-runner for the job.  “To watch him step up and do this job, and with his belief in the strategy, we have the right guy at the right time to take Ford forward,” Mulally said.

Ford and Mulally also said they mutually agreed to make Mulally’s departure a “clean break” as of July 1 rather than keeping an outgoing CEO on the company’s board.  Mulally has done a lot for Ford but Fields has tackled every task that the Ford company has thrown at him, this may be his biggest task yet, leading this established car company into the future.

Read full article here:  www.autoweek.com