Ford family celebrates 100 years of cars
By David Kiley, USA TODAY
About Ford the company
2002 revenue: $162.7 billion.
2002 operating loss: $980 million.
2002 market share: Ford is the second-largest automaker in the world, with a 13% share of sales. It also is the second largest in the USA, with a 21.5% share.
Market capitalization as of Friday: $19.6 billion.
Global employees: 350,321.
Global payroll: $18.3 billion.
2002 global sales: 6.97 million cars and trucks.
Global sales outlets: 28,000.
Brands: Ford, Mercury, Lincoln, Jaguar, Volvo, Land Rover, Aston Martin. Ford also has a controlling stake in Mazda.
About Ford the family
Stock: The family owns 70.9 million class B shares, which gives them 40% of the shareholder votes on any issue; 47.2 million are held in a trust by William Clay Ford Sr. and Ford Jr. and Edsel Ford II and are voted as a block.
Third generation: The children of Edsel Ford: William Clay Ford Sr., 78, and Josephine Ford, 80.
Fourth generation: Led by William Clay Ford Jr., 46, includes 13 cousins.
Fifth generation: Numbers more than 30. Elena Ford, 36, is the only fifth-generation Ford now working for the automaker.
Source: Ford Motor
DEARBORN, Mich. — On Sunday, William Clay Ford Jr. will lead a blowout celebration of Ford Motor's 100th anniversary. Ford Jr. will run the party because, for the last 20 months, he has run the company that his great-grandfather, Henry Ford, founded in 1903.
The last two years have not been easy for Ford, 46, chairman and CEO of the world's second-largest automaker: contentious tire recalls; customer and employee lawsuits; highly publicized quality problems; $6.4 billion in losses and a roughly 60% decline in share price. (Related story: First Henry Ford had wide-ranging interests)
Even the family-owned Detroit Lions football team has gone a miserable 5-27 in the last two seasons.
But despite the challenges, there is something rare in U.S. history to celebrate: a family that has stayed focused on running its business for a century.
For Ford Jr., pride in the family's heritage — and the wealth it has brought them — mean the stakes are both high and personal as he works to turn around the struggling automaker.
Ford and his father, William Clay Ford Sr., recently sat down together in the house where Henry Ford was born for a rare joint interview with USA TODAY. In a wide-ranging talk, they discussed their family and its history, their company and its future.
The two men are close. Ford Sr., whose father died when he was 18, speaks with pride about his only son, who has fulfilled what the family most certainly sees as its destiny — running their car company.
Ford Jr. often speaks in protective tones about his father, who has had multiple heart surgeries.
"I try not to burden him with too much about the day-to-day," he said.
He also has continued to help his father run the Lions. Even though he said he would cut back after he became CEO, he still talks to general manager Matt Millen and new coach Steve Mariucci almost daily.
What was eminently clear during the interview was the pride they take in being Fords and owning Ford. For them, their heritage means being unwilling "to punch out like other families, so your family's name continues to be used on products, especially something as ubiquitous as the Ford name, and you don't have any connection to it anymore," Ford Jr. said.
Said his father, 78, who has served on Ford's board for 55 years: "When you look at the advantages we have all received through my grandfather's efforts, there is a sense of responsibility, and the sense that we want to continue this is inbred in all of us."
Ford Sr. said he has never been in a family meeting where selling the company was discussed.
"Not in my generation. No talk of cashing out. Bill's generation has had their own meetings, which I haven't attended."
"We talk about anarchy against the third generation," his son joked.
"But seriously, in my dad's generation, it was just brothers and sisters. Now, it's cousins and second cousins, and it gets more complicated." But he, too, said there had not been a meeting to discuss selling.
The Ford family has held onto control of the company into the fifth generation through a special class of stock. It gives the Fords 40% of voting shares despite holding only 3.7% of the outstanding stock.
That 40% control shields Ford Motor from outsiders who might want to take it over. Ford Jr. says Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler would have tried takeovers in the last two years if not for the Ford family's control.
The control also makes Ford Jr. all but invulnerable to the board of directors, stacked with family and longtime friends.
Ford Sr. said he never campaigned to have his son made CEO. "In fact, I was excused by the board from a lot of meetings about it," he said.
It's obvious that both Fords considered it the right thing to do. Ford Jr. — he likes to be called Bill — said he took control of the company when Jacques Nasser was ousted as CEO in late 2001 out of a sense of responsibility "to both the company and my family."
His father, noting the advantages that go with being a Ford, said: "There are responsibilities that go with those benefits. We hang in there through thick and thin."
Still, Ford Jr. talks as if he took the job reluctantly: "Me having to take over means we failed. That wasn't easy."
But Douglas Brinkley, author of Wheels for the World, a new book on Ford Motor and the Ford family, doesn't buy Ford Jr. as a reluctant CEO.
"I spoke with every living CEO and president of Ford, and they all said they knew Billy would be CEO one day," he said.
Ford Jr. will always be dogged by the question of whether a CEO by birthright is best to run the company.
"I think he will prove to be a good one, but would he be there if he wasn't a Ford? No," said David Cole, director of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.
"Normally, I would say second-generation family members running the show, maybe. Third generation, no. Never mind the fourth. ... But I think Ford is an exception," said George Raymond Jr., founder of The Raymond Institute, a consulting firm specializing in family businesses.
Bill Ford and his cousin Edsel became the first fourth-generation members of the board in 1988. Henry II, the last Ford to be chairman, died in 1987, around the same time heart-bypass surgery knocked William Clay Sr. out of the running for the job.
Ford Jr. no longer lives in the family compound in tony Grosse Pointe, Mich. He lives in Ann Arbor, a college town where his children attend public school. When he has time, which isn't often, he can be seen jogging around town and is known for trying to ditch his security detail.
He clearly strains at times under the spotlight that goes with being rich and powerful. He chafes, for instance, at questions about whether he should have been allowed to buy into the initial public offering of Goldman Sachs, banker to both the company and the family. Under pressure, he donated the profits to charity.
Ford Jr. has dubbed his turnaround plan for the company "Back to Basics." He has sold off non-car-building businesses acquired by Nasser, such as a British car repair chain and an electric car and bicycle business. He scrapped a morale-killing worker-performance system that spurred employee lawsuits. And he has focused on beefing up product lineups.
"I'm not sure we could survive another episode of losing track of our core business," Ford Jr. said.
"You can forget what it was like during the bad times, and you start riding around high, wide and handsome, and that's what Billy inherited," his father said.
Back on track
By all accounts, Ford Jr. has worked hard to mend fences with employees and dealers who were alienated by Nasser's style. "It's tough to argue that Bill isn't good for Ford," says Jim O'Connor, the automaker's North American sales and marketing chief. "He brought all the constituencies together — dealers, employees, managers and labor — faster than anyone else could have after a very tough period."
But in the end, Ford Jr.'s tenure as CEO will be measured by how much he can make the family business resemble the nimble and more efficient Toyota and Honda rather than any version of what Ford used to be. He will be judged on:
•Profit. Ford Jr. recently faced Wall Street analysts eager to see results from his 18-month-old turnaround plan. The plan had seemed to be limping in an economy that is lurching like a car with only first and second gears working. But reaction was good: Some analysts said that for the first time in two years, Ford's outlook was better than that of General Motors or Chrysler Group.
Even with a hobbled economy and high incentive costs, Ford Jr. is on track to reach his break-even goal this year. Cost cutting and quality improvements that reduce warranty payouts are helping offset spending on incentives.
The big test, though, will come this fall when Ford negotiates a new contract with the United Auto Workers union, seeking concessions on plant closings and health care costs.
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger was the union's Ford representative before his election last year. And Ford Jr. has made it a point to reach out to the union in the wake of Nasser's pricklier style.
"Ford's (financial) weakness and Bill Ford's relationship with the UAW could help get them favorable terms," says Sean McAlinden, a labor relations expert at the Center for Automotive Research.
•Product. When Ford Jr. took over, the automaker was under pressure for having too few products for the Ford brand, while Mercury was in limbo and Lincoln adrift. Ford unleashed 15 products at last January's Detroit auto show, three times the usual number. It will roll out an almost staggering 100 new models in the next five years.
But that won't solve all the problems. There is a sense that while Mercury is getting new models, they are a return to being Fords with extra chrome. And Lincoln might take more than a decade to get healthy, because baby boomers have largely ignored it, and Generation Xers with money to spend are much more likely to pick a Japanese or European luxury model.
The Premium Auto Group — Volvo, Land Rover, Jaguar and Aston Martin — struggles to make consistent profit because of high costs and too few products.
•Environment. Before he took over as CEO, Ford Jr. was non-executive chairman and the company's conscience when it came to cleaner cars. As CEO, he must wring every penny of profit out of the big-ticket sport-utility vehicles that environmentalists hate. That means forgoing some costly changes to make SUVs more fuel efficient. Ford Jr. has had to admit that the goal of 25% improvement in fuel economy for SUVs from 2000 to 2005 won't be met. In a report last year, he said the company's strategy to address global warming "will be tempered by our near-term business interests."
That shift infuriated environmentalists. Robert Cox, former Sierra Club president who is campaigning to get a seat on Ford's board next year, says Ford Jr. is letting advisers corrupt him. "Bill Ford the chairman was for doing better than what government mandates ordered on fuel economy. ... He has to reconnect his vision with his business plan for turning the company around."
On the plus side, a $2 billion makeover of the toxic River Rouge complex in Dearbornthat his great-grandfather built is an environmental model for how to reclaim and clean up a decades-old facility.
"It's not as sexy as improving fuel economy on an SUV, but investing in a plant like Rouge that could have easily been razed and the jobs moved elsewhere is something a leader with deep roots in the company does," Cole says.
For the future, Ford Jr. said he's still intent on leading the industry's conversion from gasoline to cleaner hydrogen power.
He also said he's not interested in politics, although either Michigan's governorship or a U.S. Senate seat would be a possibility. "I can do a lot more with my name inside the business world."
One worry he apparently won't have: Lee Iacocca, fired as Ford president by Henry II, told author Brinkley that "the No. 1 mistake a Ford CEO can make is underestimating the power of the family ... if they unite and turn on you."
Bill Ford Jr. seems to have that one covered. Said his cousin Edsel: "He is absolutely the right person for the times we're in."
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....