When Alan Mulally did a media blitz in New York last week he wanted to talk about the redesigned Fusion, not his retirement plans. It didn't work out that way.
The Ford CEO's visit to the media capital came soon after reports that Mark Fields, Ford's chief of the Americas, would be named COO and Mulally's No. 2 as a prelude to taking the top job. And everyone wanted to know when.
Making the media rounds, Mulally, 67, said on the "CBS This Morning" show: "I'm not going to retire any time soon."
Yeah, but when?
"There's no news to be made," he said. "But you know clearly Ford is a very important company for our country, and the automobile industry contributes nearly 12 percent of the U.S. GDP, so I know everybody is very interested in the leadership of Ford, but I have absolutely loved serving Ford, and that's what I plan to do."
At Times Square, where he showed off the Fusion with TV personality Ryan Seacrest, Mulally told a throng of reporters: "My plan is to continue to serve as the CEO of Ford."
Asked if he ought to assure investors by clarifying his plans, he said: "I think I am really clarifying now. If I had any plans to do anything differently, I would -- I would share it."
As the "when" questions persisted, he even sounded a little cheesed -- not typical for mild-mannered Mulally. "Please don't write me off yet," he said. "I mean, I love it here."
Interviewed later by CNBC, Mulally said he had not given Ford's board of directors a retirement date. And regarding a Reuters report that when Fields does get the top job Mulally may remain on the board as a nonexecutive chairman, he said: "I read all of the reports and find all of them very interesting and very creative."