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Ford's Mulally expected to stand down before year end to hand wheel to Fields

Mulally is credited with saving the famous carmaker and narrowly avoiding bankruptcy

Ford Motor Co. chief executive Alan Mulally is expected to announce his retirement from the company before the end of 2014 and be succeeded by the carmaker’s chief operating officer Mark Fields.

Mulally, 68, is credited with saving the famous carmaker and narrowly avoiding bankruptcy after he joined Ford from Boeing in 2006. Mulally cut costs drastically, approved a massive loan, and focused on more fuel-efficient cars popular with drivers.

Fields, 53, has long been seen as a potential successor to Mulally, even before he became the company’s operating chief in December 2012. Before that, Fields - who has been at Ford roughly 25 years - was the head of Ford's north and south American business.

Ford made no specific comment about Mulally on Monday but investors will get a chance to ask the company questions about succession on Friday, when Ford is expected to announce its quarterly results.

"We do take succession planning very seriously," Ford spokeswoman Susan Krusel told Reuters. "We do have succession plans in place for all of our key leadership positions, but for competitive reasons we do not discuss them."

In January, Mulally indicated he would stay at Ford through 2014 after he ended speculation that he was in the running for chief executive’s job at Microsoft.

With Mulally in charge, Ford managed to avoid some of the huge problems that beset much of the rest of the US car industry in recent years.

In January, Ford unveiled better-than-expected quarterly results. Its revenue rose 4 per cent to $37.6 billion (£22 billion) , above analysts' estimates of $35.17 billion.

Ford's 2013 pretax profit of $8.57 billion (£5.1 billion) was its second-biggest in the last 10 years.

Analysts said 2014 is seen as a transition period for Ford that will be a test of Mulally’s restructuring – and bring about the introduction to markets of the redesigned F-150 pickup truck.