Ford says CEO Alan Mulally will retire July 1 and be replaced by Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields.
Under Mulally's leadership, Ford was able to avoid the bankruptcy and subsequent bailout that wiped out shareholders at General Motor and Chrysler Group.
The company shed weaker brands such as Volvo, Land Rover and Mercury, revitalized the lineup of its core Ford brand and secured a financing package that allowed the automaker to ride out the 2008 economic meltdown.
Ford's recovery was marked by $7.2 billion in earnings in 2013. Profits were healthy enough to pay all the hourly factory workers a record profit-sharing bonus of about $8,800 each.
The company recaptured its position as the No. 2 automaker in terms of U.S. sales from Toyota, behind only GM.
During his tenure at Ford, Mulally received a total compensation package of $44.2 million through 2013, including base salary of $13.5 million, and cash bonuses of $30.8 million.