Mulally staying sets Ford up for big 2014

Alan Mulally’s decision to stay as CEO of Ford Motor and officially end speculation that he will become the next CEO of Microsoft sets Ford and its investors up for what could be a big 2014.

Skeptics will scoff and say Mulally’s decision changes nothing.

They’re wrong.

(Read moreMulally ends Microsoft speculation, stays at Ford)

Mulally’s decision should lift the cloud of uncertainty that’s been holding back shares of Ford in recent months. Sure, Mulally is in his last year at Ford, but it could be a huge one.

Adam Jeffery | CNBC Ford Motor CEO Alan Mulally

Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Ford Motor CEO Alan Mulally

* Slew of New Models

This year, Ford is rolling out 23 all-new models around the world. That’s a new one year record the automaker.

The surge in new models will cut into profits this year, but will also set the stage for increasing sales in 2015, especially in the U.S. and China.

* Surging Sales in China

Don’t look now, but China is rapidly becoming the second most important market in the world for Ford. Last year, Ford sold 935,813 vehicles in China.

That’s a huge change from eight years ago, when Alan Mulally became CEO and the company sold a paltry 155,404 vehicles in that country.

(Read moreFord develops solar powered car for everyday use)

In 2014, Ford will open two more plants in China which should drive annual sales in that country past the 1 million mark.

* Bad News Already Cleared Out

While investors soured on Ford shares after the company warned about lower profits in 2014, that warning also lowered expectations and cleared out a host of negatives for the year.

That’s not to say Ford’s challenges in Europe or with currency in Venezuala won’t be a concern for investors.

Still, the bad news is built in to expectations.

* Smooth Transition to Fields as CEO 

Mulally’s decision to stay means the company can finally trumpet something that is already taking place: The seamless transition to its new CEO Mark Fields.

Fields is already taking on many of the day-to-day duties that once fell under Mulally. By the end of this year, his elevation to the job of CEO will be a mere formality.

(Read moreLackluster December sales don’t faze automakers)

Mulally’s decision to end the possibility of him departing for Microsoft will be seen by many as a decision that is more about Mulally than it is about Ford. That’s true.

However, the move means Mulally could end his tenure giving Ford one of its biggest years ever.

—By CNBC’s Phil LeBeau. Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews.

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