DETROIT - Straight-talking Texan Ross Roberts will retire from Ford Motor Co. at year end.
Roberts, 61, is one of the last of the generation of powerful general managers who controlled the North American market at Ford and General Motors during the 1980s and much of the 1990s.
For the past 18 months, Roberts has been entangled in Ford's Auto Collection, the controversial plan to instigate and invest in dealership consolidations worldwide. But from 1991 to 1998, Roberts was instrumental in turning light trucks into everyday, personal-use vehicles on U.S. roads.
As Ford Division general manager, he created a truck powerhouse that vaulted the Ford Explorer, Ford Ranger and Ford Expedition onto the best-seller list along with the Ford F-150 pickup, the perennial champion.
Gregarious and charismatic, Roberts built a reputation as an executive whom dealers could trust. Ford mined that reputation when Roberts was named president of the company's dealership consolidation subsidiary in April 1998.
But Roberts' presence at the helm has not calmed angry dealers who oppose Ford's intrusion into local retailing.
This month, Roberts said the company is curtailing its consolidation plans. Ford has not yet named a replacement for Roberts.
Raised in Texas/Oklahoma dust bowl border towns by a mother who taught him to be proud of their Native American heritage, Roberts built a 37-year career at Ford in North America.
He retires as Ford and the industry become more globally focused.