Board changes at Ford includes Jon Huntsman

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Jon Huntsman

Former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman. Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/CC BY-SA

Ford Motor Company announced several boardroom changes Thursday, following Wednesday’s board meeting. One of the newly appointed board members is a former Republican presidential candidate.

Board changes and additions

Ford’s President and CEO Alan Mulally announced in a teleconference Thursday the April 1 retirement of both CFO Lewis Booth and Derrick Kuzak, the automaker’s Group Vice President and Global Product Development Chief. Bob Shanks, current Vice President and Controller, will step up to fill Booth’s shoes. Vice President of Engineering and Global Product Development Raj Nair will step in for Kuzak.

Mulally alluded to the the fact that both Shanks and Nair have been groomed for the succession in order to facilitate a seamless transition:

“With their experience we’re not going to miss a beat moving forward.”

Huntsman drops presidential bid, joins Ford

Although there were no other retirees from the board, Mulally also announced the appointment of  former Utah governor, Ambassador to China and  GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman Jr. as an addition to the board. Huntsman was brought in because of his ties to China. The automaker is behind some of its competitors in the Asian nation. It is hoped that Huntsman can help turn that around.

Mulally said:

“Jon brings to Ford’s board of directors extensive global knowledge and experience –- particularly in Asia with trade issues -– and operational experience gained as governor of Utah, a state that has grown jobs even during the economic crisis. Jon understands the importance of strengthening the country’s manufacturing base, which will contribute to our success going forward.”

[Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep — Springfield is buzzing about the great deals.]

Kuzak succeeded by Nair

Kuzak, who has been with Ford for 33 years, spearheaded Ford’s transition from a company that made new models to suit the needs and tastes of each global region to one that used a universal platform across markets, with only superficial changes to accommodate regional preferences.

Kuzak will be replaced by Raj Nair, a 24-year veteran of the company. According to Autoblog, Nair has been groomed for the position over the last couple of years, hand-picked by Kuzak and heartily approved by Mulally.

Booth succeeded by Shanks

English-born Lewis Booth has been instrumental in reducing the automaker’s debt. He formerly headed Ford of Europe. Bob Shanks, his successor, joined the company in 1977 in Accounts Receivable. He has held positions of successively greater leadership since, including controller of the company’s Americas group.

Mulally’s successor?

There had been speculation that Booth might succeed 67-year-old Mulally as top man at the automotive giant. Those rumors have now been put to bed. At this point, his most like successor would seem to be Mark Fields, the current Executive Vice President.

Mulally is expected to retire within the next two years, but you wouldn’t know it by his joking remarks Thursday:

“I looked over the press release very clearly and saw that my name was not among those retiring. I have no plans to retire.”


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