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Who is Mark Fields? A primer on Ford's next CEO

Mark Fields will reportedly be the next CEO of the Ford Motor Company.
Mark Fields will reportedly be the next CEO of the Ford Motor Company.
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Mark Fields, currently Ford's Chief Operating Officer, will be the car company's next CEO, the company announced on the morning of May 1. Fields is taking over from Alan Mulally who led the company through bankruptcy and made Ford the only US automaker to avoid a government bailout and partial takeover during the financial crisis. Fields will start running the company on July 1.

Ford today is a different beast from the loss-plagued company Mulally took over in 2006. Here is a Vox primer on who Fields is and what he could bring to the corner office.

Who is Mark Fields?

Fields has been at Ford since 2002, when the company moved him away from then-Ford-controlled Mazda. Fields moved up through the ranks at Ford, and since December 2012 has been Ford's Chief Operating Officer. The COO is responsible for a company's day-to-day operations, keeping the CEO apprised of things like production and what lower-level managers are saying.

Whom is he replacing?

Fields will replace Alan Mulally, who has been the CEO since 2006, when Ford recruited him from Boeing.

Mulally is widely credited with turning the company around after it posted massive losses in the mid-2000s. The company lost $30.1 billion from 2006 to 2008, according to USA Today, but made most of that money back in the following years. In 2010, the company brought in $6.6 billion, its biggest profit in more than a decade. That allowed Ford to avoid both the bankruptcy and the unpopular federal bailouts that competitors GM and Chrysler needed during the financial crisis (though Mulally has said that the bailouts benefited Ford as well).

Part of Mulally's success was in the culture change he instituted at the company, as well as redesigning cars to make them more fuel-efficient and cutting lines like Jaguar, Land Rover, and Mercury.

Mulally has remained successful as CEO; in 2013, Ford pulled in $7.2 billion, leading Ford to give Mulally a $13.8 million performance bonus.

Why does it matter?

When it was rumored earlier this year that Microsoft wanted to steal Mulally away from Ford, he was adamant that he would not leave the company. And it looked like he would stay after Microsoft named Satya Nadella CEO.

Moreover, it matters because Mulally has become synonymous with the Ford turnaround. His departure is the end of an era at the automaker and would give Fields some big shoes to fill.

But Fields has plenty of experience, with more than two decades of it at Ford or Ford-owned companies. Before he was COO, Fields was executive vice president and president of The Americas at Ford. Ford's executive chairman, Bill Ford, had in the past credited Fields with helping to save the company by revamping Ford's North American business.