Washington • Former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman is joining Ford Motor Co.’s board of directors, a move that diversifies his business experience and could help a future White House run.
Huntsman, who has already taken two gigs with family-run ventures, said this week that he plans to take on several roles in the business sector. Adding Ford could help underscore points the former Utah governor argued in his unsuccessful presidential bid.
Ford, for example, wasn’t part of the Obama administration’s $68 billion auto bailout that Huntsman opposed and didn’t go through a bankruptcy proceeding as other carmakers have. It also matches Huntsman’s big campaign push: restoring America’s manufacturing might.
"There ought to be some way of taking the auto sector through some sort of reorganization, get them back on their feet," Huntsman said during a Michigan debate in November. "The people in this country are sick and tired of seeing taxpayer dollars go toward bailouts, and we’re not going to have it anymore in this country."
Huntsman ran into criticism during his campaign that too much of his nongovernment work had centered on his family’s businesses — he’s the former head of the Huntsman holding company — but in an interview this week, he said signing up recently to head the Huntsman Cancer Foundation and joining Huntsman Corp. signaled nothing more than continued support of his family’s efforts.
There’s "no shortage of opportunities," he said, "no doubt about that."
For instance, Huntsman has said he also is looking at a potential job with a news media company.
As the former U.S. ambassador to China and Singapore, Huntsman could help Ford shore up its Asian sales, a point alluded to by Ford’s executive chairman, Bill Ford, in announcing Huntsman’s new position. Ford’s sales in China fell 42 percent in January, according to Bloomberg.
"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," the chairman said in a statement.
Huntsman has ruled out another political run this year, but has left the door open to a future candidacy.
The former Utah governor served from 2005 to 2009. His public service career began as a White House staff assistant to President Ronald Reagan and has since included appointments as deputy assistant secretary of commerce for Asia and deputy U.S. trade representative.
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