Henry Ford II now president of company
Henry Ford II is 28. He has been executive vice president of the company since April 28, 1944.
The rebirth of Ford Motor Co. had begun. The elder Henry Ford had resumed the presidency in 1943 when his son, Edsel, died. In 1945, Henry I was 82 years old and was neither physically nor mentally capable of running the company. The story in Detroit was that Henry II's mother, Eleanor Clay Ford, threatened to sell her company stock unless Henry II was named president.
Early on, Henry II made three important personnel moves. First, he broomed Harry Bennett, who ran the infamous Ford Service Department. Next, he lured Ernest Breech and Lewis Crusoe from Bendix Corp.; then he hired, as a group, 10 members of an Army Air Corps statistical team who became known as the Whiz Kids.
Breech and Crusoe were former General Motors executives. Breech was the mentor the young Henry II so sorely needed. He signed on as executive vice president and became the company's first chairman when Ford Motor went public in 1955.
Crusoe set up Ford's first cost accounting department and staffed it with experts he recruited from his former team at Fisher Body. He was Ford Division's first general manager and wound up as executive vice president in charge of car and truck operations.
The Whiz Kids brought organization and management efficiency to a company that didn't have very much of either. Two of them became president of Ford Motor: Robert McNamara, later secretary of defense for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and head of the World Bank; and Arjay Miller, later dean of the Stanford University Business School.
Four others were vice presidents: J. Edward Lundy, executive vice president of finance; James Wright, boss of Ford Division and head of the finance and insurance group; Ben Mills, general manager of Lincoln-Mercury; and F.C. Reith, head of Mercury and Ford of France before leaving to be president of the Crosley Division of Avco Corp.
The 1949 Ford, introduced in June 1948, revitalized Ford Motor Co. It was the first big success for Henry Ford II, the Breech-Crusoe team and the Whiz Kids.
The 1949 Ford was an immediate smash, and waiting lists were long. Dealers reportedly booked 100,000 orders the day it was introduced. Prices of the 18 six-cylinder and V-8 models ranged from $1,163 to $1,980.