Ford says CEO Alan Mulally will stay with the company through 2014 when he apparently will retire.
The company has named Americas President Mark Fields as chief operating officer, grooming him to succeed Mulally.
The automaker's board has been discussing what to do when the 67-year-old Mulally decides to retire.
Mulally is highly respected at Ford for saving the company from financial collapse. Shortly after he was hired away from Boeing Co. in 2006, he mortgaged all of Ford's assets for a huge loan. The $23.5 billion loan paid for a restructuring and helped keep Ford out of bankruptcy protection.
Mulally will lead the company's long-term strategy while its business operations will report to Fields. The move is effective Dec. 1.