Chris Hayden is leaving the chief executive's post at Ford Retail group to join Group 1 Automotive in the USA.
Hayden (pictured second from the right), who set up the manufacturer-owned retail group more than 10 years ago, will be Group 1 Automotive's market director for California.
Group 1 holds a number of franchises including Ford in its portfolio in the USA, and has a BMW dealer group in the UK.
Its chief executive is Earl Hesterberg, a former Ford of Europe vice president.
Ford of Europe vice president for marketing, sales and service, Roelant de Waard, said: "Chris has done a fantastic retail job for Ford over his many years of service and has profitably developed Ford Retail into a customer-focused business worthy of our best-ever range of products."
With 60 sites spanning Britain, the Channel Islands and Northern Ireland, Ford Retail is one of the largest dealer groups in the UK and the largest Ford dealer group in the world.
Ford expects to announce the appointment of the new CEO within the next few months.
In this interim period Angus Brown, Ford Retail parts operations director, will be the acting CEO.