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Lear Corp. CEO Matthew Simoncini will retire Feb. 28, the company confirmed Thursday. Simoncini, 56, has led the Southfield-based automotive supplier since 2011.

Ray Scott, currently a company executive vice president and president of seating, will replace Simoncini as president and CEO. Simoncini will remain with the company in an advisory role through the end of 2018.

“It was time,” Simoncini told The Detroit News in an interview. “The company’s in a great spot. I had an inkling about the middle of the year that it was time to go. The best time to leave a company is when you’re on top, and we’re on top.”

Simoncini, a comparatively young man by corporate standards, dismissed any suggestion that he’d been forced out by Lear’s directors. “Absolutely not. Not at all. I don’t know what they’d have to be critical of. They wanted me to stay.”

Under Simoncini, Lear has continued to prosper in the global automotive space, repositioning itself and preparing for the industry’s increasing turn to mobility, autonomy and electrification. For next year, the company forecasts increased earnings and sales.

The seemingly abrupt change atop Lear comes as the company has been increasingly active in the city of Detroit under Simoncini’s guidance. Last year, the company opened an “innovation center” in Detroit’s Capitol Park, and Simoncini said the company was trying to find a way to bring 5,000 jobs to Detroit from Mexico.

Simoncini serves on several boards in the city, including Michigan Opera Theatre, and is a widely sought rainmaker for community fund-raising efforts. Lear develops new automotive products in collaboration with students from the College for Creative Studies and Wayne State University.

A Detroit native and Wayne State graduate, Simoncini’s easy-going demeanor, local roots and accomplished business record have made him the subject of speculation in political circles. Could he run for governor, as early as next year? His response: “I don’t see that in the cards.”

“Thanks to Matt’s exceptional leadership, the Company has achieved industry-leading financial results and the best total shareholder returns among its peers,” Lear’s non-executive chairman, Henry D.G. Wallace, said in a news release. “He has also assembled the best management team in the industry. In all regards, the Company has never been in a stronger competitive position.”

“It has been an honor to serve and lead this great company,” Simoncini said in a statement. “I am extremely proud of everything we have accomplished together. Given Ray’s extensive leadership experience and the overall strength of the Lear management team, now is the perfect time to implement our succession plan.”

Scott, 52, has been with the company for 29 years.

“Lear is an outstanding company with a history of industry leadership, and I am honored to have been appointed as president and CEO,” he said in a statement. “With a low-cost manufacturing and engineering footprint, unique product capabilities in both segments and significant financial resources, Lear is extremely well positioned for future profitable growth.”

Lear is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

ithibodeau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau

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