Farley's management skills and his potential to be CEO made him the No. 1 pick for Ford's top marketing job last year, says Ford personnel chief Joe Laymon.
Farley joins Ford executives Mark Fields, Joe Hinrichs, Stephen Odell, Don Leclair and Lewis Booth on the company's list of internal CEO candidates, said Laymon, who identified the candidates in an interview last week with Automotive News.
Laymon, Ford's group vice president of corporate human resources and labor affairs, says the list is reviewed annually. Executives can be dropped or added as Ford's board of directors gets closer to determining the next CEO.
"There is no promise," Laymon said, but "we do believe that from that group of folks could come the next Alan Mulally."
No compromisesLaymon, who calls himself the "owner" of Ford's succession-planning process, said the board of directors reserves the right to consider outside candidates. That's what Ford did in 2006 when it hired Mulally from Boeing Co. to turn around the struggling automaker.
Laymon said Mulally has been asked to develop a cadre of internal candidates who could succeed him when he retires. Mulally turns 63 this year and is expected to retire early next decade.
While the company would prefer to promote from within, "This board of directors is not going to compromise," Laymon said. "If we are not successful at developing that cadre of leaders from which they can select, they will have no qualms in going to the outside again."
Mulally's five-year contract with Ford expires in 2011, although it has provisions for a one-year extension. Either option would take the current CEO beyond Ford's traditional retirement age of 65. A further extension of Mulally's contract is possible and is "occasionally" discussed, Laymon said.
Ideally, Mulally's successor would take a clear No. 2 role such as COO six to 12 months before the handoff, Laymon said.
Candidates speakFord's list of CEO candidates has a balance of relative newcomers and Ford veterans. The differences in their ages span nearly 20 years, giving Ford's board lots of latitude.
The company veterans are Fields, who is president of the Americas; Leclair, Ford's CFO; Odell, Ford of Europe's COO; and Booth, who runs Ford of Europe and the Premier Automotive Group.
The newcomers are Farley, hired last October from Toyota; and Hinrichs, the global manufacturing chief, who joined Ford in 2000.
Farley and Fields declined to speculate last week on their chances to run Ford someday.
"Listen, I am not going to go there," said Fields, 47, who is leading the company's North American turnaround. "I'm going to let the chips fall where they may. I am not focused at all on things like the succession race. We are focusing on doing our jobs."
Farley, 45, told Automotive News he will focus on day-to-day duties and avoid the distractions of the CEO horse race. "You earn those opportunities," he said. "Right now, I haven't done anything."