Image: Padilla
Issei Kato  /  Reuters
Ford Motor Co. President and Chief Operating Officer James Padilla poses with the company's concept car "Equator Concept" at the Tokyo Motor Show east of Tokyo on Oct. 19, 2005.
updated 4/6/2006 8:15:02 PM ET 2006-04-07T00:15:02

Ford Motor’s president and chief operating officer, Jim Padilla, is stepping down after 40 years at the automaker, the company said Thursday.

Padilla, 59, will retire effective July 1 and will leave the company’s board of directors. His responsibilities will be assumed by Ford Motor Co. Chairman and CEO Bill Ford, who will lead a new executive committee composed of the automaker’s executive vice presidents.

Padilla has been in his current position since April 2004. Before that, he was executive vice president of the company and president of the Americas. He has led manufacturing operations for Ford, Mercury and Lincoln in North and South America and at Jaguar.

“The legacy of Jim’s impassioned leadership will be his tireless pursuit of excellence, his inspired championing of workplace diversity and the mentoring he practiced that paved the way for so many of our senior executives leading Ford today,” Bill Ford said in a statement.

Among those Padilla mentored were Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas, and Anne Stevens, chief operating officer of the Americas. Fields and Stevens are leading the No. 2 U.S. automaker’s North American turnaround plan, which calls for 30,000 job cuts and 14 plant closures by 2012 in a bid to return the automaker’s North American division to profitability. The division lost $1.6 billion last year.

“We have the right team for the job at hand and it is time for me to allow them to grow even further and transition into the new roles that await them,” Padilla said. “It is because of these individuals, and the people they lead, that I leave Ford with confidence in the company’s future.”

Under Ford’s new management structure, Fields and Mark Schulz, president of international operations, will begin reporting to Bill Ford. Bill Ford also will lead an operating committee that consists of Fields, Stevens, Schulz, Ford of Europe chief Lewis Booth and Chief Financial Officer Don Leclair.

Padilla joined Dearborn-based Ford in 1966 as a quality control engineer. He accepted the first in a series of management positions in engineering and manufacturing in 1976. He was manufacturing operations manager for two of Ford’s most popular vehicles, the Ford Escort and the Ford Taurus.

Known as a hands-on leader with a hard-nosed style, Padilla is largely credited with fixing Jaguar’s operations in the early 1990s, restructuring the company’s South American operations in the late 1990s and, more recently, spearheading quality improvements. He also executed the company’s 2002 restructuring, which cut 35,000 jobs, or 10 percent of Ford’s work force.

Padilla was born in Detroit, one of 11 children of a Mexican-Irish family. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering and a master’s in economics from the University of Detroit Mercy.

Padilla was a White House fellow and served as a special assistant to the U.S. secretary of commerce in 1978 and 1979. He currently is a member of the manufacturing council at the U.S. Department of Commerce, a 13-member advisory group.

In 2004, Padilla received the Ohtli medal from Mexican President Vicente Fox. The award recognizes Mexican citizens living outside the country who have worked for the benefit of younger generations of Mexicans. Padilla, whose grandfather immigrated from Mexico, became a naturalized Mexican citizen in 2003.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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