Ford executives

How do you replace the man credited by Time Magazine with managing "the biggest business turnaround of the Great Recession?" That's a very good question, and one that the Ford board of directors is grappling with as company CEO Alan Mulally edges closer to retirement age.

At 66, Mulally isn't exactly far past his prime, and Executive Chairman Bill Ford is said to be in no hurry to welcome in a successor. That said, the timing of Mulally's exit from Ford is likely to be a determining factor in the decision to hire his replacement.

Current CFO Lewis Booth, at 63 years of age, could potentially hold the seat at the head of Ford for a few years if Mulally were to retire earlier than expected. If that doesn't happen, Mark Fields, Ford's President of the Americas, is cited as the most likely choice as its next CEO.

There are two other potential candidates, reports Automotive News. Jim Farley, vice president of global marketing, is on the short list, as is Joe Hinrichs, who heads Ford's Asia Pacific and African operations.

Insiders suggest that Ford may choose to keep Alan Mulally on its payroll in some unknown capacity to help mentor his replacement. Such a move could potentially keep both the rank-and-file Ford workers and Wall Street investors satiated.