April 25 - After disappointing results, Ford talked up a promising future, with its heavy lineup of new vehicle launches coming in the new year. Bobbi Rebell reports.
The story at Ford- Fields and the future. Fields as in Mark Fields- the expected- but as yet still not officially confirmed successor to CEO Alan Mulally. And future- as in 2014 being called a transition year- the company firmly putting the focus on 2015- and the 23 new vehicles set to launch. No wonder- Profits plunged 39 percent at the automaker. Warranty costs shot up to $400 million, to go along with a number of recalls. They also had to hike incentives in North America- to clear out an aging line up of vehicles. Kelley Blue Book's Karl Brauer: SOUNDBITE: KARL BRAUER, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF INSIGHTS, KELLEY BLUE BOOK (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I was actually surprised. I thought the numbers would be a little bit better, but there were some of these one-time fees. There was the Brazilian currency issue that cost them some money. And I actually feel like they are trying to clear the decks while Mulally is still there so that Fields can come in and have a very fresh clean slate." Mulally though is still firmly entrenched- Reuters' Ben Klayman was on Ford's conference call following the earnings release: SOUNDBITE: BEN KLAYMAN, REUTERS CORRESPONDENT (ENGLISH) SAYING: "At first he didn't really say anything, and then he was asked a second time, and you know he tried to dance his way around it. He just repeated that he is sticking with the original plan of staying through the end of the year. We've had a source tell us that they will announce soon that Mark Fields, the Chief Operating Officer, will be announced as his successor, and they will outline the exit timeline for Alan. But we are still waiting on when that is going to land." When it does- it will be yet another insider to take the helm of a major U.S. automaker, after outside talent was brought in during the crisis years. SOUNDBITE: KARL BRAUER, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF INSIGHTS, KELLEY BLUE BOOK (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I think these outsiders came in, the Ackersons and Mulallys, they came in and they kind of straightened things out, got the financial house in order, and now things are moving well, and the insider product people who've got histories at these companies can kind of move forward and take over from here." The next date to watch for an announcement: Ford's annual meeting -scheduled for May 8th.