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Henry Ford

Later Generations

Henry Ford's son, Edsel Bryant Ford, 1893–1943, b. Detroit, shared in the control of the vast Ford industrial interests. He was president of the Ford Motor Company from 1919 until his death, when his father once more became (1943) president of the company. The eldest Ford soon retired again when his grandson, Henry Ford 2d, 1917–87, b. Detroit, succeeded him in 1945. The younger Henry Ford moved quickly to restructure and modernize the company, which had slipped from the world's largest automobile manufacturer in 1920 to number three in the U.S. market in 1945. He removed a number of long-time Ford executives, such as Bennett, and for the first time in company history, recruited outsiders for positions of responsibility. The company spent $1 billion between 1945 and 1955 to expand its operations, introduced successful new models, and raised $690 million in capital by offering stock to the public (1956). Although Ford modernized and revitalized the company, his tenure also saw the introduction of the Edsel, which lost the company $250 million, and Ford's autocratic management style forced a number of top executives, such as Lee Iacocca, to quit. In 1960, Ford became chief executive officer and chairman of the corporation, offices he held until retiring as CEO in 1979 and as chairman in 1980.

Although family shareholders continued to have voting control of the company, nonfamily members headed Ford until 1999, when Bill Ford (William Clay Ford, Jr.), 1957–, became chairman. Working at Ford Motor Company from 1979, Bill Ford became vice president of the commercial truck vehicle center in 1994, chairman of the finance committee in 1995, and chairman of the board in 1999. In 2001 he also became chief executive officer of Ford, but the company's difficulties led him to resign that post in 2006.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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