DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. executive Steve Biegun is quitting as vice president of international government affairs to return to Washington, his old stomping ground, where he will be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's special envoy for North Korea.
The automaker also said Thursday that its vice president of manufacturing and labor affairs, Bruce Hettle, will retire on Oct. 1. His successor — who will be the chief negotiator during next year's contract talks with the UAW — is Gary Johnson, currently Ford's vice president for North America manufacturing.
Biegun and Hettle "have played critical roles in the success of Ford Motor Company globally and have set the stage well as we continue to deliver the products and experiences to become the world's most trusted company," Ford CEO Jim Hackett said in a statement.
Biegun was appointed by Pompeo on Thursday to manage negotiations with North Korea over dismantling its nuclear weapons program, and the two plan on traveling to Pyongyang next week.
"Steve has had extensive career in foreign policy and in tough negotiating settings as well," Pompeo said Thursday. "He closely engaged foreign governments to advance Ford's goals all around the world. He will now employ the same skill and dedication on behalf of the American people to make sure that their interests are well served in respect to North Korea."
Biegun is the second veteran lobbyist in Washington to leave the automaker amid thorny trade discussions with the Trump administration. Chief lobbyist Ziad Ojakli, who managed Ford's Washington office, exited last month to join Japan's SoftBank Group Corp. and Biegun took over his position. After managing all the corners of the automaker's international governmental relations for 14 years, Biegun will retire by the end of August.
Curt Magleby, vice president of U.S. government relations, will direct Ford's lobbying efforts on an interim basis and Michael Sheridan, 55, director of global trade strategy and policy, will lead Ford's international government affairs, reporting to Magleby. Sheridan will manage the automaker's connections with governments around the world, and Ford's trade strategy and political risk assessment.
Since joining the company in 1988 as a financial analyst for Ford's electronic division, Magleby has worked in numerous capacities around the globe ranging from production superintendent in Mexico to director of ASEAN affairs in Singapore.
Hettle, who has worked in Ford's manufacturing operations for 32 years, took charge of the automaker's global manufacturing footprint and labor affairs in January 2016. He oversaw the launch of the redesigned Super Duty pickups in 2016 and Ford's redesigned full-size SUVs last year.
Johnson, 54, will manage the global operations of 67 plants and oversee engineering for stamping, vehicle and powertrain manufacturing. He will report to Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of global operations.
Replacements for Johnson and Sheridan will be announced at a future date, a Ford spokeswoman said in an email to Automotive News.
Biegun, before joining Ford, worked in the White House from 2001 to 2003 as executive secretary of the National Security Council, and he was a senior staff member working under National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
After that, he was national security adviser to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, where he provided analysis and strategic planning for the Senate's foreign policy, defense and intelligence matters, and international trade agreements.
Bloomberg contributed to this report.