A history of the men who have led Ford Motor Co.

Ford named Jim Hackett her 10-CEO Monday. The 114-year-old company has no official role of director-general, until it went public in the 1950s. So Henry and Edsel Ford served as the chairman of the company, but never a CEO.

A look at the men who preceded Hackett as top executives of Ford Motor Co.


Henry Ford, 1906-1918, 1943-1945

The industrialist Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor company in 1903. A titan of industry, Henry Ford was the first to adapt assembly line techniques of the car industry with the Model T, and for the first time brought the car ownership in the realm of possibilities for middle-class Americans. While Henry Ford gave the title of president to his son Edsel in 1919, there was little doubt that the older Ford remained firmly in control until he officially passed on the title in 1945 to his grandson.


Edsel Ford, 1919-1943

While he struggled daily for the control of the company, with its larger-than-life father, Edsel helped Ford back in a dominant position on a market in the late 1920s with the introduction of the Ford Model A. Among Edsel Ford, the company bought Lincoln Motor Co. that eventually became the Ford higher-end brands to compete with the likes of Buick and Cadillac. Edsel Ford unexpectedly died in 1943, at the height of the second world War, making the older Henry Ford to return to the running of the company.


Henry Ford II, 1945-1979

The grandson of the founder of the company, Henry Ford II was the CEO from 1945 to 1979. He led the company through some of its greatest years, but also endured some of the biggest failures. Under Henry Ford II, the company created the popular Thunderbird and Mustang, but also the Edsel marketing flop and the fire-prone Pinto. Ford became a publicly traded company under Henry Ford II.


Philip Caldwell, 1979-1985

Caldwell was the first CEO of Ford who was not a member of the Ford Family. While his successors, Donald Petersen and Harold Poling are known for the creation of a number of Ford’s most iconic brands, Caldwell is best known for being the CEO that the turnaround effort at Ford during the company’s most turbulent years.


Donald Petersen, 1985-1990

Petersen was the first of two successive Ceo’s at Ford, who are credited with turning around the company, as Ford was struggling against the fierce competition from the Japanese automakers. Petersen is charged with the task of management to create cars that they themselves would be “proud to park in their driveways.” The change in the corporate culture eventually led to the creation of a number of Ford’s biggest sellers, such as the Explorer and Taurus.


Harold “Red” Poling, 1990-1993

The nickname “Red” for his hair, Poling is best known for being a top executive at Ford by two recessions: the beginning of the 1980s crisis and the recession in the early 1990s. During the 1980’s, Poling together with Petersen pushed Ford to invest money in a new model platform, which eventually became known as the Ford Taurus.


Alexander Trotman, 1993-1999

Born in the united kingdom, Trotman numerous positions at Ford, before he became the first foreign born CEO in the early 1990s. Trotman’s biggest contribution to the company as CEO was an attempt to Ford’s various brands in the world starting with the sharing of parts and platforms to lower production costs.


Jacques Nasser, 1999-2001

While Nasser became CEO of Ford with the aim of diversification of the automobile and the expansion of its luxury brands, his three-year tenure was dominated by the Ford-Firestone tire recall and product safety scandal. Ford ended up recalling more than 20 million Firestone tyres and the scandal put an end to the 100-year-old partnership between Ford and Firestone.


William Clay Ford Jr., 2001-2006

The great-grandson of Henry Ford, William Clay Ford Jr. focused Ford on the larger, heavier vehicles. His attention to large vehicles left Ford unprepared for the sudden change in the interests of the consumer, that occurred after gasoline prices spiked and the housing market crashed. He continues to Ford the chairman.


Alan Mulally, 2006-2013

A former executive at Boeing, Mulally became CEO of Ford in a time of crisis for the company and the industry. High gasoline prices are pushing Americans away from Suvs and trucks, and in low-profit small vehicles. Mulally cut costs, sold, brands and the restructuring of the company and Ford was the only Detroit automaker not to take government bailout money during the Great Recession.


Mark Fields, 2014-2017

Fields had the difficult task of replacing Mulally, who achieved hero-status. In his three years, Fields began with the move of Ford of a traditional automaker in a “mobility” company with plans to build autonomous vehicles and explore ride-hailing and car-sharing. Ford posted a record profit before tax of $10.8 billion in 2015. But the share price fell almost 40 percent during Fields’ tenure.

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular