Ford Motor Co. on Thursday named former 2012 Republican presidential candidate and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman to its board of directors.

The appointment gives Huntsman another job as he retreats from the public spotlight back into the private sector. And it gives Ford another established, high-profile board member with political ties.

Ford's announcement came amid a series of personnel shifts. Two of the company's top executives, both more than 30-year veterans of Ford, will retire on April 1. Also on Thursday, Ford Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally denied speculation of an impending retirement by the end of 2013.

Huntsman, 51, joins former U.S. House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt as board members with political ties. Gephardt, the former Missouri congressman, sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2004.

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, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said in a statement. Jon understands the importance of strengthening the country's manufacturing base, which will contribute to our success going forward.

Huntsman gained some of that knowledge from his latest job as U.S. ambassador to China. He returned from President Barack Obama's appointment to make a run for the 2012 Republican nomination. But his support lagged, and he dropped out of the race on Jan. 16, throwing his support behind former Gov. Mitt Romney.

In the campaign, Huntsman highlighted Utah's job creation during his tenure as governor, claiming the state was first in the nation in job creation.

Huntsman was elected governor of Utah twice, leaving the position in his second term for the ambassador position. Post-candidacy, Huntsman is also taking control of his family's Huntsman Cancer Foundation as chairman.

If he decides to run again for political office, Huntsman could be a leading candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.