Ford COO Says He’s Learning to Work Beside CEO Mulally

Ford Motor Co. (F) Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields, in line to run the company eventually, said having Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally beside him in a weekly meeting of top executives is important for continuity.

“It hasn’t changed whether Alan is running it or I’m running it,” Fields, 51, said in a Bloomberg Television interview, referring to a weekly Thursday business review meeting he has begun leading since becoming COO on Dec. 1.

Mulally remains in the meeting “to provide continuity,” Fields said. “He’s there to provide good, strategic direction and also mentorship of the entire leadership team.”

Fields is now the No. 2 executive of a company thriving in North America, the region he previously ran, as it struggles overseas. Ford earned a record $6.47 billion in North America in 2012’s first nine months and had an operating profit margin of 11.2 percent. The automaker has said it will lose $3 billion in Europe this year and next and it has less than 3 percent share in China, the world’s largest auto market.

Mulally, 67, will remain at the automaker through 2014 and continue to guide Fields in his broader role, Ford has said. Mulally, who came to Ford from Boeing Co. (BA) in 2006, is credited with saving the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker without a bailout or bankruptcy.

“It’s a privilege actually to work beside him, to continue to learn from him,” Fields said of Mulally yesterday. The weekly gathering of executives now run by Fields is “the heart of our business, in terms of how we run it,” the COO said. “Alan has instituted that process and it’s worked wonders in our company.”

Ford fell 1.5 percent to $11.10 at the close in New York.

Mulally’s View

“I’m spending more of my time on the more strategic issues, especially about where do we want to serve around the world that we’re not,” Mulally said in a separate Bloomberg Television interview.

Other executive changes went into effect on Dec. 1, including Joe Hinrichs taking over as president of Ford’s Americas unit, the post formerly held by Fields. Stephen Odell, head of Ford of Europe, added responsibility for Africa. Jim Farley, the company’s global marketing chief, received the additional duty of supervising the company’s Lincoln luxury brand.

“I get a chance also to help nurture this new team, and support them as they run the day-to-day operations led by Mark,” Mulally said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Keith Naughton in Detroit at knaughton3@bloomberg.net; Matthew Miller in Dearborn, Michigan, at mtmiller@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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