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Mulally confident, not interested in other auto jobs

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Mulally confident, not interested in other auto jobs

January 12, 2010 - 1:59 pm ET

DETROIT (Reuters) -- Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally, whose company is on track to complete a turnaround, said on Monday he would retire only when the job was no longer fun and would not leave for another car maker.

Mulally, 64, who was hired away from Boeing Co. in 2006 after 37 years including a long tenure as head of its commercial airplanes business, said he has grown to love Ford.

"I came to Ford for one reason, to help turn around another global icon," Mulally said.

When asked when he would retire by reporters during a question-and-answer session at a dinner on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show, Mulally quickly replied, "When I'm not having fun."

Mulally declined to comment when asked whether he had been approached to be CEO of rival General Motors Co., adding "I love Ford."

He also replied, "I love Ford," when asked whether he had turned down a GM request to become its CEO, adding that he wouldn't consider leaving Ford to be the CEO of another automaker.

Ford, which posted losses totaling $30 billion from 2006 through 2008, has said it expects to be "solidly profitable" in 2011. The automaker is in the middle of a turnaround plan that includes an overhaul of its small to mid-size car lineup.

Mulally expressed confidence in executing the turnaround, but said the automaker would not become overconfident.

Mulally said a healthy and normal annual selling rate in the U.S. should be 15.5 million vehicles.

He said Ford will be a world leading company by 2020 and he will consider Ford's turnaround complete when Ford's profit margin is at 6 percent. Ford reported a third quarter net profit of $997 million.

Management successor

When asked who on his management team would be best to succeed him, Mulally said it was a fabulous team and named all of the top executives. He also said Ford's search for his successor should include external and internal candidates.

On other topics, Ford does not expect to hire any U.S. unionized workers at the second-tier wage negotiated with the UAW before next year, Mulally said.

New union hiring would take "at least a year, maybe 2011, depending on how the economy comes back, the industry comes back," he said.

Mulally also said Ford hoped to get more than several hundred UAW workers to accept buyout packages under a recent offer. Previously, Ford had shed thousands of union jobs through buyouts, but recent offers have drawn few volunteers.

No new hiring yet

Overall, Ford has no plans to make widespread hiring across its ranks and in the case of the UAW, it still has some productivity gains it can achieve, executives said.

In terms of pricing competitiveness, Mulally said he hoped the industry had learned its lesson about chasing market share at the expense of profits during the last downturn, but said he remained very concerned about excess production capacity.

"There is nothing worse than overcapacity in the industry and we still have overcapacity," Mulally said. "It's hard to expect rational behavior when you have overcapacity."

Ford is taking out production capacity in North America, consolidating a plant in Michigan, one in Canada and one in Minnesota over two years to bring it in line with demand, assuming markets recover as expected, the automaker has said.

Separately, Mulally said Ford does not envision competing with the Tata Motors' ultra-cheap Nano car on a similar sized vehicle in Asia, but was considering a slightly bigger vehicle.

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