It wasn't exactly a surprise that Mark Fields was chosen to step in for Ford (NYSE:F) CEO Alan Mulally, but the timing is earlier than expected. Originally, Mulally had said that he would stay on at Ford through 2014, so what does this change mean for the company?

While Mulally has done an incredible job turning around Ford during the past seven and a half years, Field's extensive experience at the automaker should alleviate some anxiety for shareholders. In the near term, investors should keep an eye on how Fields responds to any issues that arise this year for Ford. With 23 new vehicles being unveiled globally, the odds are that there will be some hiccups that Fields will have to deal with.

Longer term, Fields, only 53, is poised to lead Ford through the beginning stages of what could be the most revolutionary decade for automakers, the 2020s. Autonomous vehicles are no longer science fiction -- they're coming sooner rather than later -- and Fields must usher the company through the beginning of this new era. In the video below, Brendan gives his full thoughts on Fields and how Ford stock looks in the mid- and long-term time frames. 

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Brendan Byrnes owns shares of Apple and Ford. The Motley Fool recommends Ford. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.