Navistar International has announced that long time chief executive officer Troy Clarke will stand down this week and hand over the running of the corporation Persio Lisboa, who will become president and chief executive officer effective from 1 July.

 Clarke has held the role since April 2013, and been  chairman since February 2018, will move to the newly created role of executive chairman.

The move may be the signal that Traton’s bid to buy  the remaining shareholding in Navisar could be close to being finalised.

“I have enjoyed the opportunity to lead Navistar for the last seven years, but it’s now my intention to move toward retirement,” Clarke said.

“Persio is a strong leader with a proven record of driving results. He understands our industry, knows our business segments and will position the company to capitalize on the opportunities ahead.”

He continued to describe Lisboa as a champion of the company’s Navistar 4.0 business strategy.“Persio’s performance history is exactly what’s required by Navistar as we transition into our next chapter, one I’m confident will be even more transformational and exciting than our last,” he said.In the role of executive chairman, Clarke says he will focus on the leadership transition and continue to manage discussions with Traton, including proposal it tabled on 30 January, to acquire Navistar at $US35 per share.

The 54 year old Lisboa, is a 32 year Navistar veteran having joined the company in 1988 and has served as executive vice-president and chief operating officer since March 2018. He had also served in positions in the U.S. and South America, including president of operations and chief procurement officer.

“On behalf of our employees, dealers, customers and shareholders, I want to thank Troy for leading Navistar through a difficult period, establishing our global alliance with Traton and returning our company to growth and profitability,” Lisboa said.

Wednesday is shaping as a big day for Navistar which has announced that work will start on its new manufacturing facility in Texas also on 1 July.

Work on the 300,000 sq metre. manufacturing complex — which will include an assembly plant, logistics facility, power plant and three other buildings — is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2021.

The new complex is expected to cost $US65 million to build, but the company will spend a total of more than $US250 million, including the cost of land and plant equipment.

Navistar announced in September last year  that it planned to build the new factory, and will create 600 jobs. It will be its second heavy truck assembly plant in the U.S. along with the other in Ohio.

Plummeting sales and economic turmoil in the wake of  the COVID-19 pandemic has made for tough times for the heavy truck manufacturers  and Navistar has not avoided that strife.

The added complication for Navistar is the $US2.9 billion all-cash bid by Traton in ]anuary, to buy  the remaining 82 per cent of  Navistar.

The departure of Tony Clarke from the CEO role on a strategic date like 1 July some analysts believe, is a pre cursor to the board accepting the offer and sealing the deal to complete the purchase. Persia Lisboa’s appointment to the CEO role is also seen as a strong selection to become a part of the unified Traton operation in the USA with full control of the company coming under Volkswagen subsidiary.

The bid has been on hold during the COVID 19 crisis as the VW subsidiary dealt with its own challenges stemming from declining truck sales. However Traton’s massive IPO last year filled its war chest with cash, and the declining Navistar share price has made it a potentially less expensive and more easily achieved acquisition.

Traton boss Andreas Renschler’s stated aim is to build the company into a truly global truck maker, mirroring what he did  with his previous employer Daimler. The one thing preventing Traton from achieving its goal at the moment is its lack of a footprint in the giant American market. Navistar will he its ticket to the US market and it will take control at some point in the near future.

Some doubt was cast over Navistar’s ability to go ahead with the construction of its new plant in Texas  particularly as the pandemic hit and global economy was forced into recession. Local county and Texas state officials questioned whether Navistar would drop plans for the plant, which located near Toyota America’s main pickup truck plant is situated.

However the announcement of the start of construction and the new management structure at Navistar has eased those concerns.