Whenever 66-year-old Ford CEO Alan Mulally decides to retire, the conventional wisdom has been that Ford's board will choose a successor from inside the company. But The Wall Street Journal last week created a stir in Dearborn by floating the names of a couple of outsiders it said are in contention: John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, and Phil Martens, CEO of Novelis Inc., the global aluminum company.
The emergence of Krafcik's name might have been predicted. The ex-Ford executive is sometimes said to be in General Motors' CEO sweepstakes, too. But Martens, 51, was a bit of a surprise. When he left Ford in 2005, he appeared to close the door behind him pretty securely. Martens later worked at suppliers Plastech Engineered Products and ArvinMeritor before joining Novelis in 2009 as COO. When he left Ford he was head of global product development.
But in a slightly cryptic statement last week no doubt meant to ease concerns among the troops, Ford said that it is not looking at outside candidates.
In the statement, Ford said: "The Wall Street Journal story is false. As [Ford Chairman] Bill Ford has consistently said, we will always consider both internal and external candidates for any succession plan, but we do not have a search under way for an external CEO successor."
So either external candidates had been considered and rejected, or there's no formal search going on right now.
Top inside candidates to replace Mulally are said by Ford watchers to be Mark Fields, 50, president of the Americas; CFO Lewis Booth, 63; Jim Farley, 49, the global sales and marketing chief; and Joe Hinrichs, 45, in charge of Ford Asia Pacific and Africa.