When Alan Mulally arrived at Ford Motor Company three years ago, the Blue Oval was in bad shape. New product wasn't exactly pouring in and the company's cash hoard was steadily shrinking. And word on the street is that the corporate culture at Ford was in as much trouble as the product lineup, making change difficult. Now in 2009, it appears Mulally has done the near impossible, turning around Ford's product lineup while supposedly positively altering FoMoCo's corporate culture.

For all of Mulally's success, there is one problem: he's 64 and can't continue to run the company forever. And although Mulally has given no signals of separating from Ford any time soon, industry insiders are already speculating on who will become his successor. The four names that continue to come up are Ford Americas President Mark Fields, global marketing boss Jim Farley, manufacturing whiz Joe Heinrich and Ford Europe savior Lewis Booth.

The Detroit Free Press feels the early money is on Fields. The Harvard grad has been with Ford for 20 years, and he's lead some high profile success stories. He turned around Mazda and is currently piloting Ford North America in the midst of what appears to be a substantial product renaissance. Farley has an advantage in that he came to Ford from Toyota/Lexus and is seen by many as a real up and comer.

By many accounts, Heinrich is a bit of a manufacturing genius. The Harvard Business grad came from General Motors, where he became the company's youngest ever Plant Manager at age 29. Booth has the longest resume and arguably the most examples of success. He appears to have consistently met and exceeded expectations everywhere he has been, including Mazda, Ford Asia Pacific and Ford South Africa. Booth is different from his fellow executives in that he is the only one who isn't in his 40s.

We have no earthly idea who would become the next head of Ford, and we're guessing that we're at least a couple years away from finding out. We're OK with that, because this Mulally guy appears to know what he's doing.

[Source: Detroit Free Press | Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty]

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