Ford last night said its head of international operations would retire from the company early next year.

Mark Schulz, 54, executive vice president and president, international operations, is responsible for the company's business in Europe, Africa and the Asia Pacific region and oversees the global activities of Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo, as well as the company's partnership with Mazda.

Prior to his current position, Schulz served as executive vice president, Ford Motor Company and president, Asia Pacific and Africa. And, he led Asia Pacific and Ford South America Operations as a corporate vice president. Prior to his election as a corporate officer, Schulz was the head of Ford's operations in Turkey for five years.

He began his career with Ford as an assembly line worker in 1970.

"Any changes in structure and organisation that result from Schulz's retirement will be the topic of a future announcement," Ford said in a statement announcing the move.

A news agency said Schultz's departure was unexpected and the latest in a wave of high-profile executive departures from the troubled car maker as well as the most prominent since former Boeing CEO Alan Mulally took over and began meeting with executives to consider ways of overhauling Ford's global operations.

Ford spokesman Tom Hoyt told the Associated Press it was "a personal decision" for Schulz to leave the company.

AP noted that other key executives to leave over the past six months included former president and chief operating officer Jim Padilla and former Americas COO Anne Stevens, who was considered one of the architects of the "Way Forward" North American restructuring plan.

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