Ford Motor Co. diffused months of speculation by industry insiders over who would replace the popular CEO Alan Mulally by stating that Mulally will remain at Ford through 2014.

The ever-cheerful Mulally is credited with reviving the Blue Oval and navigating the carmaker through troubled times and avoiding bankruptcy as well as dramatically changing the company's corporate culture.

Bill Ford, the company's chairman said Thursday that Mulally will remain at Ford through 2014, though his role will now include creating a long-term strategic strategy for the company. Bill Ford and Mulally also left the door open that Mulally's direct involvement at Ford could extend beyond 2014. One scenario suggested by insiders and analysts is sharing the chairman's office with Bill Ford, and/or staying on as a member of the board of directors.

Bill Ford also announced a series of executive promotions clearly lining up the succession of Mulally.

"Today marks an important next step in the profitable growth of the Ford Motor Company and the appointment of key leaders who will help us continue to make progress on our One Ford plan," Ford said. "The strength of our people and stability of our team are competitive advantages for Ford. We are fortunate to have Alan's continued leadership as well as talented senior leaders throughout our company who are developing and working together and delivering on our plan."

Mark Fields, the former President of the Americas at Ford, was appointed chief operating officer and will oversee all of the daily business at Ford. Long considered a front runner for the CEO spot, this promotion makes Fields the obvious heir apparent.

"Mark Fields is the natural choice for the COO post at for Ford as he is an excellent strategist with a deep understanding of all facets of the company," said Jesse Toprak, Senior Analyst at TrueCar.com. "His international experience will be an added bonus for Ford as the bulk of their growth is expected to come from outside of the North American market in the next decade. European market can particularly benefit from Field's carefully calculated progressive management style."

Other promotions include:

-- Joe Hinrichs takes over Field's position as president of The Americas.
-- Stephen Odell was named president of Europe, Middle East and Africa.
-- Jim Farley was promoted to executive vice president of Global Marketing, Sales and Service and Lincoln. Heading up Ford's luxury brand could be Farley's biggest challenge, as Lincoln, which is struggling in America, looks to go global.
-- David Schoch was named president of Asia Pacific.
-- John Lawler was named chairman and CEO of Ford Motor China.


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