Update corrects day of Bloomberg report.
DETROIT (Reuters) -- Ford Motor Co.'s board of directors is considering keeping CEO Alan Mulally involved with the automaker, after his retirement, as the board's nonexecutive chairman, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The board, which concluded a regularly scheduled meeting today, is laying the groundwork to promote Mark Fields, the head of Ford's North and South American operations, to COO, said the source, echoing press reports from earlier this week.
Ford does not discuss or comment on board matters and no announcements are planned, a Ford spokesperson said after today's meeting.
Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that the board is planning to move Fields into the COO position. This would make him heir apparent to Mulally, who is said to be planning to retire at the end of 2013, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal reported.
The news outlets said that while directors would discuss the succession issue at this week's meeting, it was unclear when Ford will make an official announcement about any changes.
Bill Ford, the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford, would remain executive chairman if Mulally were to become nonexecutive chairman, the source told Reuters.
"Ford Motor Company takes succession planning very seriously, and we have succession plans in place for each of our key leadership positions," Ray Day, Ford's vice president of communications, said earlier. "For obvious competitive reasons, we do not discuss our specific succession plans externally."
Naming Mulally's successor is crucial for Ford because the 67-year-old former Boeing Co. executive is closely identified with the automaker's remarkable turnaround. Ford avoided bankruptcy and the federal bailouts that rescued its U.S. rivals in 2009, General Motors and Chrysler.
Mulally has not said when he plans to retire as CEO.
The promotion of Fields, 51, would be the clearest sign yet that he is the frontrunner to succeed Mulally, who is credited with steering the automaker back to profitability over the last six years, with $23 billion in borrowing and his "One Ford" plan.
Analysts and people close to Ford have long expected Fields, a 23-year Ford veteran, to wind up as CEO. Fields has been in charge of Ford's largest business unit, North America, since 2005 and executed the initial wave of U.S. job cuts before Mullaly's arrival, under a plan called Way Forward.
Automotive News contributed to this report.