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Ford to hold conference call, may reveal CEO plan

Tom Krisher, AP Auto Writer

DETROIT (AP) -- Ford has scheduled a conference call for Thursday morning and may announce a succession plan for CEO Alan Mulally.

The automaker's board has been discussing what to do when the 67-year-old Mulally decides to retire.

Many in the company expect Americas President Mark Fields to be promoted to chief operating officer, a step that prepares him to take over for Mulally.

Ford Motor Co. said in an advisory that both Mulally and Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. would take part in the call, which is being held to make an important announcement.

Spokesman Jay Cooney would not say what the conference call is about.

Mulally said in September that he hasn't told the board when he plans to retire. He said he discusses succession plans regularly with the board but would not give any details.

Mulally is highly respected at Ford for saving the company from financial collapse. Shortly after he was hired away from Boeing Co. in 2006, he mortgaged all of Ford's assets for a huge loan. The $23.5 billion loan paid for a restructuring and helped keep Ford out of bankruptcy protection.

Mulally told The Associated Press in a September interview that he plans to be at Ford for a while. "I have no other plans going forward but to serve this great company," he said.

He also told reporters in September that he has read reports about his retirement, calling them interesting and creative. "Please don't write me off yet," he said.

Fields, 51, has long been the front-runner to succeed Mulally. For years he has run the company's most profitable operations in North, South and Central America. He also ran Mazda when Ford had a big stake in the Japanese automaker, leading the company to sales success. Fields also was the architect of restructuring plans that turned Ford from a huge money-loser to a successful company.

Many in the company think that Mulally would stay on for at least a year while Fields serves as chief operating officer.