A few weeks ago I wrote an article about Ford (F), and how the 2013 Fusion will be instrumental in growth for the company. At the time, there were some rumors going around that the CEO, Alan Mulally, was planning on retiring soon. The result was a bunch of loyal Ford shareholders running around with their hands in the air, screaming that the sky is falling! By time I began writing that article, Alan Mulally had made a statement, contradicting this rumor, and it was put to rest.
On October 11, 2012, I read a regurgitation of that story about how the Ford board had begun to plan for succession, for when Alan Mulally eventually does leave the company. This isn't anything new, as it has been reported and speculated on for about a month. Since the rumors started, Mark Fields has been the apparent runner up. Strangely enough, I haven't found anyone reporting some sort of reassurance in that choice, but after doing my own research, I'm convinced that there is nothing to worry about regarding the company's future.
I'll admit, prior to the rumors, all I knew about Mark Fields was from seeing his name listed under the many officers and directors of the company. However, after reading into the situation, it's clear to me that Ford will be in good hands, with or without Alan Mulally. This is not intended as a slight to Alan in any way. He brilliantly executed "The Way Forward" restructuring plan, and brought Ford to profitability. The company completely turned around under his leadership, and he deserves all the accolades he gets.
The key to Ford's future is in Bill Ford and Mark Fields. In 2005, Bill knew the company was in trouble, and he instructed Mark Fields to come up with a plan to save it. "The Way Forward" plan was created by Mark, and it is his own vision, actualized by Alan Mulally, which brought Ford to where it is today. If Mark Fields is to replace Alan Mulally, there should be no doubt that the company will continue on the path it is following. It was Mark who founded the need for a new lineup with bolder designs (world's best selling compact sedan, the 2012 Focus, anyone?), had a vision of more hybrids (Fusion Hybrid and C-Max, both with best in class MPG) and wanted to shed all excess brands (Jaguar, Land Rover, etc.), to return the focus back to Ford.
Bill Ford hired Alan Mulally to replace him, so that's his other good deed. Maybe I give him too much credit. Alan was his third choice, after all.
In other news, Ford is picking up in China, another key to a strong future. Sure, there's the whole European sales issue, but that's affecting all the car companies, so it's not a major loss of market share to the rest of the auto industry.
My recommendation is to buy Ford while it lingers around the $9-$10 range. I did on the 10th, and I have no regrets. I'm seeing lots of shiny new blue ovals on the road (although it could be because I'm looking for them...) and I'm thinking there could be some good numbers, come the next quarterly report. It's gone up to $18 before, and it will eventually do it again, with or without Alan Mulally at the wheel.
Tell me what you think! I'm giving Mark Fields the benefit of the doubt on this so please tell me about some horror stories I missed, if they're relevant. Yes, I know he once tried to attack the CFO in a meeting. That just gives him character.