While Ford’s (F) board of directors is seeking clarification about whether its current CEO Alan Mulally will stay through 2014 or possibly take the same job with Microsoft (MSFT), the Dearborn, Mich.-based auto maker announced plans Thursday to hire about 5,000 employees in the United States next year. Ford intends to launch 16 new vehicles in North America, including the 2015 Mustang and F-Series, and seven new vehiclees in the rest of the world. The jobs, including salaried and hourly positions, and are in addition to 14,000 jobs added during the last two years in preparation for the new product onslaught, said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas. The jobs announcement comes as the U.S. industry wraps up its best sales year since 2007, fueled by easier credit and rising consumer confidence. Ford will launch 23 vehicles globally, 16 in North America, including the Ford F-150, Mustang and Transit. Lincoln will expand its lineup with the MKC compact crossover. As for Mulally, Ford issued a statement he plans to stay through 2014 but neither the board nor Microsoft issued a statement on the matter.
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