Henry IIs vision forges Ford of Europe
Though difficult to create, unit became model for industry
On June 5, Israel attacked Egypt and Syria to begin the Six Day War. Egypt closed the Suez Canal in response.
Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Who headlined the Monterey Pop Festival, the high point of the Summer of Love.
And frequent traveler Henry Ford II visited Europe with two things on his mind: He wanted to see the company’s GT40 race cars perform in the 24-hour race at Le Mans on June 10 and 11, and he wanted to make a fundamental change in the way Ford operated in Europe.
The legacy of that fateful trip was a car company that became the most international in its scope and vision in the industry. As a result of the vision of Henry Ford II, Ford of Europe became a model for the global approaches car companies now use.
But creating Ford of Europe was not easy.
Ford had a basic problem: While other companies such as Renault and Volkswagen presented a single face to European customers, Ford did not.
John Southgate, Ford’s European public affairs director who accompanied Henry Ford II on many of his journeys around the Continent, recalls: “Germany and Britain were running completely separate companies with their own model lineups. Ford of Britain would have its own dealers in Germany, if you can believe it. It was a shocking waste.”
In the early 1960s, Ford of Germany had collaborated with Ford Motor in Dearborn to develop a car to compete against the VW Beetle. The project was code-named Cardinal, after the songbird. The car was never produced or sold in America, but the Germans went on to manufacture it as the Taunus 12M, the first front-wheel-drive Ford in Europe. (See story on Page 186.)
Patrick Hennessy, chairman of Ford of Britain, saw a prototype in Dearborn and ordered his team to come up with a competitor. It was code-named Archbishop because the British misunderstood “Cardinal” to be a reference to a church authority. The British car’s production name was Cortina.
Though similar in size, the two cars were vastly different: The front-wheel-drive Taunus had a V-4 engine, while the Cortina had an inline-four and rear-wheel drive.
Harry Calton, who was chief press officer for cars at Ford of Britain, recalls how the two Ford models competed in those days: “They actually had a launch at Montlhery (a racetrack near Paris) in 1962. It was a sales meeting with Ford of Britain competing against Ford of Germany and each presenting its wares to the national sales companies. It was Taunus versus Cortina. The sales teams from each location were competing with the other for business.”
Henry Ford II hated such waste. He told Ford publicist and confidant Walter Hayes: “What I know is that people want better products, and the best way to do that is remember there is only one Ford Motor Company, and we don’t have the resources to do everything twice over.”
In his biography Henry: A Life of Henry Ford II, Hayes recalled the circumstances that led to Ford’s historic trip:
“For nearly 20 years, Henry had worried about Ford in Europe — not merely the progress of the business itself and its fast-developing markets, but more specifically the way it managed and exploited its growing resources. ... From 1962 onward, his impatience with the way things were became increasingly evident.
“It seems odd in retrospect how entrenched and even claustrophobic were the managements of Ford in Germany and Britain at this time. They had grown up as virtually independent fiefdoms.”
A few days after the Ford GT40 won at Le Mans, Ford called a meeting at the Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris. Present were John Andrews, general manager of Ford of Britain, and Stanley Gillen, his counterpart in Germany. Both were Americans.
Walter Hayes recalled Ford’s words to Andrews at the meeting: “What we need is a Ford of Europe to knock a few heads together and make things happen faster. And it’s no use looking to Dearborn. They have enough on their plate. You have got to do it yourself. Make Ford of Europe.”
So the integration began. Jim Donaldson, president of Ford of Europe from 1998 to 1999, says: “We formed a giant British-German team of executives as the planning committee for Ford of Europe. We met five days a week. This committee had to pull together a blueprint for launching Ford of Europe.
“Ford of Britain and Ford of Germany were frustrated that they were tiny players in Europe. A lot of the troops latched on to Mr. Ford’s vision that you could add the two shares together. If Ford applied itself it could become a large two-digit share in Europe and not be a bit player. That appealed to the pride of individual guys.”
David Burgess Wise, Ford historian, says: “It would be difficult to get Britain and Germany to work together so soon after the war. It obviously was a very tough time because people were being pitchforked out of their certain career structures into the unknown.
“Some of the product development people involved in the early days of Ford of Europe when all the organization was shattered and stuck together, just sat in their offices at Dunton crying. Their whole careers, which had been on a certain and steady progression until now, had been thrown into the wind and blown away.”
Bill Hayden, a young manufacturing executive at the time who would go on to run Ford’s European manufacturing operation and later its new Jaguar unit, says: “There was a mutual distrust. Only a few years before, we were fighting each other in the war. It was funny, when you got them together, all the Brits would say they fought in the Far East and the Germans on the Russian front.”
Combining the organizations meant some people would lose their positions. Donaldson says: “In almost every case, two jobs became one. We had a young guy called Alex Trotman — director of product planning for Ford of Britain. Klaus Amedick was director of product planning in Germany. So when Trotman got the Ford of Europe job, Klaus became the assistant. This happened all through the organization.”
Albert Caspers, Ford of Europe chairman from 1994 until 1996 and manager of pilot plant and technical services in the early days of Ford of Europe, recalls: “In Germany, we were not prepared at all for this joint venture. The day after it was announced, I was made responsible for pilot plant and technical services. That means we built all the preproduction units right from prototypes up to Job 1. I traveled to London without knowing who I was going to meet (because Ford of Britain had no similar job at Dagenham).”
The language barrier was a big issue in deciding who got what job. Hans-Joachim Lehmann, longtime human resources director at Ford of Germany, says: “In Germany, nobody ever expected to communicate totally in English. The majority of the senior management in manufacturing and product development was not bilingual. This caused a lot of confusion at the beginning, and it required those who did not speak English to learn the language.
“It was those fellows who had a typical German career and only worked in manufacturing who had the greatest problems. If the manager of an engine plant didn’t speak English, you had to put him somewhere else and put someone in his place to talk English with others to coordinate engine production.”
Hayden remembers it differently:
“Every German spoke English. They had to speak English. Americans are singularly inept in languages.”
But nobody ever forgot that the company was based in America.
At the outset, people had different ideas of what kind of organization Ford of Europe would be.
Caspers says: “The manager of manufacturing engineering in Britain said to me, ‘Albert, I got to tell you something: Every department you have in Germany, we will have in Britain. Every section you have there, we will have in Britain. That’s what Ford of Europe is all about.’
“I said, ‘I know the boss, and he told me something different.’ ”
After the traumas of the early days, those employed by Ford of Europe learned the company’s culture was stronger than they had realized.
Donaldson says: “We’ve got one hell of a powerful Ford family philosophy going cementing us together and transcending the national boundaries. Many of the Brits had never been to Germany and vice versa. A lot of the top guys had met each other at cocktail parties at Dearborn. But the midlevel troops were complete strangers to each other. That’s where Ford culture had paid dividends. Lo and behold, they found out that they tackled problems in the same way.”
Not a quick integration
Integrating the organization at the operating level took many years and still is going on in some areas. During the early 1970s, both the Genk factory in Belgium and the Dagenham factory in England were preparing to make the same car. The program was known internally as TC, which stood for Taunus-Cortina, the final generation for both cars. Ford had big problems with production, especially in Britain.
Caspers says: “The manager of the Dagenham assembly plant wrote a letter and said the car was not ready for launch, and we should continue with the old car. We were developed so far in the program that that was impossible.
“We had all made the mistake thinking that as Genk gets along with it, Dagenham will get along with it. But we underestimated the inability for that plant at that time to get these issues resolved — tooling issues, fit and finish issues, water leaks and so on. It took us a really long time. I remember that I spent months and months there.
“The cars (on the Dagenham line) were leaking like hell, and I was determined not to let them go out of the factory’s gate. The pool of cars grew and grew. We had to take the carpets out because the carpets were all wet. We were testing the cars for water. So we took the carpets out and hung them all on a big washing line.”
Henry Ford II regarded Europe as his special province within the company. Carl Levy, an American who was former managing director of Ford in Norway, Spain and France, says: “One of the reasons Lee Iacocca never made the grade in Henry’s eyes was that Henry felt he had no global appreciation. I know Iacocca was uncomfortable in Europe. Henry said, ‘I’ll take care of things in Europe.’ There’s no question he was very comfortable and enjoyed being in Europe and being involved in Europe.
“For me, it was wonderful to have a guy like that. If I had been at Ford in the U.S.A., I’d have been so many levels below him on an organization chart I’d have never have seen him. But in Europe you’re meeting him at the airport, driving him around, dining out with dealers. That was great.”
Donaldson says Henry Ford II “believed everything from gasoline specs to safety standards would become standard. It was his view all this was going to grow, and we just had to get our operations integrated. If product development could be integrated, the rest would follow. That was the key. He was a visionary when it came to geopolitical matters and economic unions.”
Unique global style
In Europe, Ford laid the foundation for what arguably has become the most international of all car companies.
Nick Scheele, now Ford Motor Co. COO, joined Ford of Britain in 1962. He recalls that the new entity altered horizons of young executives like himself: “(My ambitions) were limited to Ford U.K. I knew it was part of a larger enterprise, but Ford was so intertwined with the British consciousness that it was viewed as a British company. In fact, we at Ford U.K. viewed Ford Germany as a competitor.
“But Ford of Europe was created in 1967. This was an enormously difficult thing to put together, and I think it was one of Henry II’s greatest, most far-reaching visions, to create this company ahead of the Common Market. It was very farsighted.”
That view led to globetrotting executives and raised the possibility that a non-American could hold the company’s top job.
Alex Trotman, former Ford chairman and a Ford of Europe product development chief in his early career, says Henry Ford II “was a real pragmatist in dealing with people; he didn’t give a hoot what nationality you were. He looked for performance. So it never seemed unnatural to send a South African to Spain or an American to Europe or a Norwegian to America.”
Says Scheele: “Can you imagine Toyota being run by a non-Japanese person? Can you imagine Volkswagen being run by a non-German?
“The answer is always no, and you can’t imagine it happening, frankly. Now why can you at Ford? The answer is because we’re national-blind. You’re a Ford person. You’re not an American or a Brit or a German. You’re a Ford person, and I think that is a significant plus.”
You can reach Bradford Wernle at firstname.lastname@example.org.