There are big changes afoot at Ford Motor at the highest levels. The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker's executive chairman, Bill Ford, said that Alan Mulally will stay on as Ford president and CEO through at least 2014. Rumors had been floating about that he was planning on retiring and moving Mark Fields, VP of the Americas, to a higher position. That will happen, as Fields is the company's new chief operating officer, effective Dec. 1.
Mulally will continue leading the long-term strategic development of the One Ford plan, which is the automaker's global product-efficiency strategy. Global marketing chief Jim Farley will continue with a focus on rebuilding Lincoln as a global luxury brand.
Fields will still to report to Mulally. Says TrueCar.com's Jesse Toprak, senior analyst, "Mark Fields is the natural choice for the COO post for Ford as he is an excellent strategist with a deep understanding of all facets of the company," adding that since the bulk of Ford's growth will come from outside of the North American market in the next decade, Fields is the right COO. "The European market can particularly benefit from Field's carefully calculated progressive management style."
A new study by Detroit-based Phoenix Marketing International lauds Ford for its consistency in marketing messages, which has been instrumental in improving the brand's perception levels among consumers.
Ford had, during the late Nineties and through the mid-2000's, ambled along with middling perception at best, driven mostly by trucks. But its car resurgence and consistent messaging have given it a stronger position vis à vis Toyota, per Phoenix and based on a poll over 5,600 in-market consumers.
The firm's senior analyst, Kevin Severance, says Ford and Toyota's high rankings in the study have to do with the brands having adhered to a focused, active messaging strategy. He said Ford benefits both from its role in American automotive history and from consumers’ regard for how it weathered the economic downturn. He notes that it has also been helped by aggressive social media campaigns supporting vehicles like Fiesta, Fusion, and Focus. The most recent such effort was the "Random Acts of Fusion" program with a web-based program that uses celebrity Ryan Seacrest.
Meanwhile, with Fields' new position, the following operating units will report to him: The Americas; Europe, Middle East and Africa; and Asia Pacific, Product Development; Manufacturing, and Labor Affairs, and a lot of other functional divisions.
Other changes: Joe Hinrichs, currently group vp and president of Asia Pacific and Africa, will be executive vice president and president of The Americas; Stephen Odell will be executive vice president and president of Europe, Middle East and Africa. David Schoch is named group vice president and president of Asia Pacific; Schoch is currently chairman and CEO, Ford of China.
John Lawler has been elected Ford Motor Company vice president and named chairman and CEO of Ford Motor China; Lawler is currently CFO, Ford Asia Pacific Africa.