DETROIT, Michigan - Ford has promoted long-time executive Mark Fields to chief operating officer as part of a management shuffle that will keep Alan Mulally as chief executive until at least the end of 2014.The plan, which stopped short of formally naming Fields (51) as Mulally's successor, puts him in charge of the weekly business review meetings that have been one the most visible signs of cultural change at Ford since Mulally was hired in 2006.LONGER THAN EXPECTEDMulally (76) will stay as CEO about a year longer than analysts expected with the door open to stay longer if needed.Fields, a 23-year Ford veteran, is widely seen as the front-runner to replace Mulally, and executive chairman Bill Ford said he hoped the next CEO would come from within Ford's ranks. However, he didn't rule out the possibility of hiring an outsider, as he did when he hired Mulally, then a Boeing executive, to steer Ford's turnaround six years earlier.Bill Ford said: "This isn't really a transition. We really do have the great team that Alan has developed and mentored but don't read anything beyond that into this."Ford also promoted several other executives, including Joe Hinrichs, who will take on Fields' role as head of the Americas. Hinrichs, who has been mentioned as a possible CEO candidate, now leads Ford's operations in Asia and Africa.The management changes, approved by Ford's board on October 19, 2012, will be effective from December 1.