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 Heritage Moment: Bill Ford Joins the Company

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Editor's Note: Each Thursday, @Ford Online takes a look back at Ford heritage moments from the company's past. Click here for more heritage articles.​

DEARBORN - On Oct. 15, 1979, Bill Ford began his career here at the Blue Oval as a product planning analyst in Advanced Vehicles Development.  Now, he serves as the company’s executive chairman of the board.

Following his initial planning analyst position, Ford then moved to automotive assembly operations, working on the launch of Escort and Lynx. He also was a zone manager in the New York-New Jersey area before being appointed a member of the company’s national bargaining team for the 1982 UAW-Ford labor talks.

After the bargaining talks, Ford moved to North American Automotive Operations where he analyzed future automotive markets. In 1983, he began a 12-month course of study as an Alfred P. Sloan fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 

Bill Ford joined the board of directors in 1988, where he also is the chairman of the board’s Finance Committee and a member of the Sustainability Committee.

In 1987, he was elected chairman and managing director of Ford of Switzerland. Ford then moved to head of Business Strategy for the company in 1990 where he helped develop guidelines for establishing low-volume manufacturing plants in emerging markets.

Bill Ford is a lifelong environmentalist who believes that sustainability is the most important issue facing businesses in the 21st century.  Early in his career, his strong environmental beliefs were considered to be outside the mainstream of conventional thinking in the business community.   Despite this, he persistently spoke out about and acted on his convictions, and over time the business case for environmental stewardship was recognized inside and outside the company.

Ford led a profit turnaround and major quality improvements in 1992, after being appointed general manager of the Climate Control Division. Ford also established the company’s first wildlife habitat at a plant location and the first automotive plant in the world to use 25 percent post-consumer materials in all of its plastic components. During his tenure as general manager, the division won the President’s Commission on Environmental Quality Award for replacing a hazardous chemical in a production process with water. 

Elected company vice president and head of the Commercial Truck division in 1994, he left that position to assume chairmanship of the board’s Finance Committee in 1995. He has served as chairman of the board since 1999. Under Ford’s leadership, the company published its first corporate citizenship report in 2000. The report outlined the economic, environmental and social impact of the company’s products and operations around the world. 

That same year, he addressed the Greenpeace Business Conference in London, and became the first leader of a major automaker to reach out and begin a dialog with the group.

Bill Ford served as CEO of the company from October 2001 to September 2006, when he was named executive chairman of the board.   As CEO, he improved quality, lowered costs and delivered exciting new products. During this time, he took the company from a $5.5 billion loss in 2001 to three-straight- consecutive years of profitability.

In 2004, the company completed the world’s largest brownfield reclamation project, the restoration of its Ford Rouge Center – a showcase for lean, flexible and environmentally sensitive manufacturing. Ford also championed the Ford Escape Hybrid, the world’s first hybrid-electric SUV, which was named North American Truck of the Year in 2005.

In 2009, he was instrumental in the decision to transform the company’s Michigan Assembly Plant from a factory that built large SUVs into a small car assembly plant that will build gasoline, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles – the world’s first factory to build all these types of vehicles simultaneously.  

Looking to the future of transportation, Bill Ford has been an advocate in bringing disparate industries together to raise the awareness about the future of transportation and the impact that urban mobility could have on society.   He first spoke on the topic at the TED:2011 (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference in Long Beach, Calf.  In 2012, he went on to be the first automotive executive to deliver a keynote address at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where he outlined the company’s Blueprint for Mobility – a vision for smart transportation and need for the development of intelligent vehicles and transport systems.

His charitable, volunteer and business efforts are highlighted by his commitment to the city of Detroit. As vice chairman of the Detroit Lions, he led efforts to build a new, environmentally friendly stadium in Detroit,  which was host to Super Bowl XL, the Frozen Four and Sweet 16 of the Final Four. Through Detroit Lions Charities, he has helped develop the Detroit Police Athletic League youth football program into one of the largest in the country.

Bill Ford also serves as chairman of the board of the Detroit Economic Club, a member of the Board of Trustees of both Henry Ford Health System and The Henry Ford, member of the Board of Directors of eBay Inc., and chairman of the New Michigan Initiative of Business Leaders for Michigan. He also is a founding partner of Fontinalis Partners, LLC, a Michigan-based investment firm that acts as a strategic operating partner to transportation infrastructure technology companies around the world.

Born in Detroit on May 3, 1957, Bill Ford is the great-grandson of Henry Ford, founder of Ford, and Harvey Firestone, founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. He is an avid fly fisherman and car enthusiast, enjoys playing hockey and tennis, and is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from Princeton University and a master of science degree in management from MIT.


 
 

  

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10/18/2012 6:05 AM