Forbes reports on the position Mark Fields is in, now that he has been named the chief operating officer at Ford. The promotion puts him in line to succeed Alan Mulally, but Ford chairman Bill Ford also made it clear that Fields will have to earn it. Still, Bill Ford pointed out that Fields has been through the wars over the past few years. You might remember that he played a key role in drafting The Way Forward, the turnaround plan that was supposed to get Ford through the last decade. But when Mulally got there, things worsened, and Ford had to take more steps that the original plan didn't envision, like borrowing $23 billion. (That move, in hindsight, seems like a master stroke.)

According to Forbes, Fields was under a lot of pressure to fix the business in Ford's home market. "Recall that Mark took a lot of heat internally and externally as he made all the changes," said Bill Ford. "There was a lot of speculation about whether he was capable enough for the job." For instance, Fields took a lot of ribbing for his mullet haircut, and he also raised eyebrows for using company jets to fly to Florida to see his family. But things have changed since those days. "To his credit, he stuck to it, he learned from it, and he showed tremendous fortitude in grinding through, and he arrived today where North America is operating at a tremendously profitable level," Bill Ford said. Now: can he stick out the next two (or more years) and win the number one job?

Photo: The Associated Press