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Ford Motor says CEO Alan Mulally is retiring July 1 and will be replaced by long-time Ford executive Mark Fields, currently COO.

Fields has been the heir-apparent since Ford created the COO post for him in December 2012.

Bill Ford, chairman of the car company, thanked Mulally in an emotional session at the automaker's headquarters that was widely attended by employees.

Ford said that when he hired Mulally away from Boeing in 2006, the men talked about "all the great things about the Ford culture and the not-so-great things about the Ford cuture, and we talked about changing the latter.

"Here we are eight years later and we did it," Ford said with a wide smile, to enthusiastic applause.

"We did it," Mulally agreed moments later.

Ford's announcement:

"Ford Motor Company [NYSE: F] announced today that Alan Mulally has decided to retire from the company July 1 and Mark Fields will be named Ford president and chief executive officer and elected as a member of the company's board of directors.

"'From the first day we discussed Ford's transformation eight years ago, Alan and I agreed that developing the next generation of leaders and ensuring an orderly CEO succession were among our highest priorities','" Executive Chairman Bill Ford said. "Mark has transformed several of our operations around the world into much stronger businesses during his 25 years at Ford. Now, Mark is ready to lead our company into the future as CEO.'

"Mulally, 68, is retiring after nearly eight years leading Ford and capping a remarkable 45-year career. Mulally has led Ford's transformation and strengthened its position as one of the world's leading global automakers. Under Mulally and the company's One Ford plan for profitable growth, Ford has achieved 19 consecutive quarters of profitability, developed the strongest product lineup in Ford's history and embarked upon the company's most ambitious global expansion in the past half century."

Before becoming COO, Fields was in charge of Ford's operations in the Americas and reversed losses, making North America a profit engine.

Mulally was hired personally by the automaker's chairman, Bill Ford, who was impressed with Mulally's efforts at Boeing.

"Mark Fields is well positioned to succeed Mulally after 25 years with the company," said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.

"His previous role as the head of Mazda gives him experience in the Asia-Pacific market, a critical region for growth going forward. In recent years Mark Fields ran operations and cut costs at Ford while serving as a key advisor to Alan Mulally in the formation and execution of the One Ford Plan."

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