On this day in auto history - September 21st

Tue 21st Sep 2021

It was on this day in 1945 that Henry Ford II - grandson and namesake of the company founder - succeeded his late father Edsel as president of the ailing Ford Motor Company.

The move was absolutely pivotal in re-establishing the faltering US behemoth as a global industrial power because - in the aftermath of World War II - Ford was losing a staggering $9 million per month under the temporary stewardship of original founder Henry Ford, who was widely rumoured to be senile at the time.

A Yale graduate and World War II navy veteran, Ford II immediately adopted an aggressive management style and soon nursed the company back to full health with the help of a group of management executives who became known as the “Whiz Kids”.

The most notable member of this group was Robert McNamara who was later poached by John F. Kennedy to serve as US Secretary of Defence before becoming President of the World Bank.

Ford II’s domestic success was widely attributed to creating two of the most iconic and recognisable models in auto history - the sporty Thunderbird and the original ‘muscle car’, the Mustang. On top of this, he also expanded aggressively overseas, establishing Ford as a major power all over the world by shrewdly introducing a series of smaller cars into the company’s line-up after the 1973 oil crisis.

Having resigned the presidency in favour of a CEO role, Ford II formally retired from all positions at Ford Motor Company upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65 but he still wielded influence behind the scenes until shortly before his death at the age of 70 in 1987.