The Business On... Alan Mulally, chief executive, Ford

Chief executive? You mean 'Saviour'

The plaudits for his five-year reign at the historic carmaker have begun to roll in, amid reports Ford has started quietly looking for a successor. Mr Mulally, now 66, is expected to retire in the next couple of years. And yes, saviour might not be overstating it.

Not bad for a guy with no car experience

Indeed. Mr Mulally is an aeronautical engineer, who spent his career at Boeing. So loyal and entrenched was he at Boeing, he used to sign letters by drawing a cartoon jumbo with a smiley face.

Plaudits, too, then, for Bill Ford

Founder Henry Ford's great-grandson fired himself as chief executive in 2006, saying the carmaker needed fresh blood, and hit upon the idea of bringing in someone from outside the industry, the better to shake up a company on the ropes.

What can Mr Mulally be most proud of?

Keeping the company out of bankruptcy, even as Detroit rivals Chrysler and General Motors collapsed and needed government bailouts. Without the complacency borne of a long career in Detroit, and with a dollop or two of his famous charm, he persuaded bankers to refinance Ford a good year before recession came.

Mr Nice Guy, too, eh?

Yes, but that doesn't mean he avoids blunt speaking. He repeatedly told Ford employees the firm "had been dying for 40 years" before he arrived.

So farewell, then

Not so fast. Ford says there is still no formal succession plan. Nonetheless, he kept his permanent home in Seattle, near Boeing. When he finally does go back west, Ford will miss him.

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