Jon Huntsman joins Ford's board of directors

“Jon understands the importance of strengthening the country’s manufacturing base, which will contribute to our success going forward,” Ford's statement continued.

Huntsman was viewed as a serious presidential contender when he resigned his Chinese ambassadorship in 2011 to pursue the GOP nomination. But his campaign struggled to gain traction, and many conservatives questioned his service in the Obama administration.

The U.S. auto industry has emerged as a campaign issue for 2012, with the Obama campaign touting the bailouts of Chrysler and General Motors as a success for the president. Ford did not receive a bailout, which the company highlighted in a television commercial last year.