"Every job the company's ever asked him to do, he's done a really good job of it," Bill Ford said.
Mulally relied heavily on the "Way Forward" strategy that Fields initiated in 2005, when Ford's big North American division was a money pit. Fields's plan called for closing factories, laying off thousands of workers and using Ford's design expertise in Europe to build better cars that could be sold globally.
Fields embraced Mulally's call for a cultural change early on, Bill Ford said, adding that Fields' decision to stay with the company and learn from Mulally showed a lot of fortitude. In turn, Mulally helped smooth some of the rough edges that had sometimes made the Brooklyn, N.Y.-born Fields hard to work with.
"I have nothing left to teach or tell Mark about. He knows everything," Mulally said.
Bill Ford said Fields will be a collaborative leader, like Mulally, but "with not as much hugging." Mulally, a father of five, is famous for his wide grin and bear hugs.
This marks the second change in leadership at the top of a Detroit automaker this year. Mary Barra took over as CEO for Dan Akerson at General Motors in January.
Supporters say Fields is an excellent strategist with a deep knowledge of the business. His international experience, with stints in Japan, Europe and Argentina, is invaluable as Ford restructures its European operations and focuses on growth in volatile young markets like Asia and South America.
Fields, a married father of two college-age sons, wears sharp suits and has a bit of a swagger. He was raised in Paramus, New Jersey, the youngest of three sons; his father, Gerald Fields, was the purchasing manager at a sprinkler company and often talked business at the kitchen table. His mother is a homemaker.
At the New York auto show in April, Fields showed a home movie of his family at the 1964 World's Fair in New York. He remembered the excitement of the crowd when he was lifted on his father's shoulders to see the new Ford Mustang.
He's been a car guy since he was eight, when his father bought him his first two Matchbox cars, which he still has. He also still owns his first car, a Datsun 280Z, which he bought in 1983.
Fields earned a bachelor's degree from Rutgers University in 1983. He sold computers for IBM before earning an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1989.
Like Barra, who became the first female CEO of a big automaker at GM, Fields will be breaking a mold at Ford. He is the company's first Jewish chief executive.
Ford shares fell 24 cents to close at $15.91.