Ford Motor CEO Alan Mulally, the man credited with turning around the once-troubled automaker, will retire from the company on July 1.
Mulally will be succeeded by his No. 2: Mark Fields, who has been widely seen as CEO-in-waiting since he was promoted to chief operating officer in November 2012.
The departure of the 68-year old Mulally is not a surprise. When Fields, who is 53, was tapped as COO, Ford announced that Mulally would be staying as CEO until “at least 2014.”
Mulally was recruited to Ford in 2006 from Boeing, where he was in charge of its key commercial aircraft business. At the time, Ford was the most financially troubled of the U.S. automakers.
Mulally shed weaker brands, such as Volvo, Land Rover and Mazda. The biggest gamble he took was mortgaging many of the company’s assets, from its productive factories to its iconic blue oval logo, to give it enough cash to revitalize the lineup of its core Ford brand.
The moves allowed Ford to ride out the recession and avoid the bankruptcy and subsequent bailout that wiped out shareholders at General Motor and Chrysler Group in 2009.
Since then Ford has come back stronger than ever. It earned $7.2 billion in 2013. Profits were healthy enough to pay all the hourly factory workers a record profit-sharing bonus of about $8,800 each.
The company recaptured its position as the No. 2 automaker in terms of U.S. sales from Toyota Motor, behind only GM. Last year it gained more U.S. market share than any other automaker.
Fields was also centrally involved in the turnaround efforts.
A year before Mulally’s arrival, Fields was tapped as president of Ford’s operations in North and South America. The first task in the new job was coming up with a plan to close 14 plants in North America and trim up to 30,000 jobs.
Fields has experience outside Ford’s home market as well, having served as executive vice president of European operations and president and CEO of its Mazda brand.