HENLEY-IN-ARDEN, England - For whatever else he accomplished in a long and successful career, Bill Hayden will always be remembered for 'that Gorky comment.'
Hayden, a veteran Ford manufacturing executive and a tough Londoner, made the infamous remark after touring Jaguar's manufacturing plants shortly after becoming Jaguar's chairman in 1990.
At the time, Hayden said Jaguar factories were the worst he'd seen - except for a car plant he had once toured in the Soviet city of Gorky.
Some people thought he was only referring to Jaguar's World War I vintage engine plant at Radford. Hayden replied, 'I was talking about all of them,' including the Castle Bromwich body plant and Browns Lane assembly plant.
While touring Gorky, a factory with high ceilings and pigeons flying around, Hayden noticed that 'one of the birds had crapped on the top of the car, and they had painted over top of it.'
'I said, `What are you going to do about that bird crap on the roof?' Hayden said. 'They said, `Nothing - Russian customers are much less fussy.''
BEING JAGUAR NOT ENOUGH
Things weren't quite that bad at Jaguar, but almost.
'They didn't really seem to understand what a mess they were in,' Hayden said recently, sitting in the front room of his old farmhouse on the outskirts of this peaceful village where he has retired. 'They seemed to think that just being Jaguar somehow they would survive.'
Following the takeover, the Jaguar work force was nervous about Ford's intentions. Hayden used that fear as a tool in starting the turnaround.
'I wanted fear; I did want fear,' he said. 'I wanted people there I could get on with. I thought I could provide the fear. But you had to get their attention.'
'He got our attention,' said Mike Beasley, Jaguar executive director in charge of manufacturing and engineering. 'At times, my relationship with Bill Hayden was difficult because he was a very hard taskmaster and he had a very forthright manner. But it was because of a man of his character and leadership that we were able to adopt those Ford processes, which I think was absolutely critical.'
`THE LADS WERE SICK'
Terry Green, a veteran line worker at Browns Lane, remembered Hayden's Gorky comment vividly.
'I've got to be honest,' Green said. 'The lads were sick on the shop floor. They couldn't believe a person would say such a thing. It wasn't very good for public relations.'
But Green admits now that Ford saved Jaguar from oblivion.
Hayden's name still produces a reaction from Jaguar executives.
Nick Barter, Jaguar product development director, likened an encounter with Hayden to being stuck in a closed alley.
'There's a bulldozer coming at you with a blade as wide as the alley,' Barter said. 'There's no escape, and you're slowly walking backward. He's coming at you with questions and more questions.'
LOTS OF QUESTIONS
Hayden did indeed ask countless questions. He wanted to know what was the justification for the F-Type, the sports car concept Jaguar engineers had been working on since the early 1980s. Hayden thought the car was going to be overweight and underpowered.
'The marketing guy said he never believed in it,' Hayden said. 'The finance guy said we could never price it. We could never recover the costs. It was a rubbish car. I said, `Let's kill the damn thing.''
Neither did Hayden have any use for the Jaguar XJ220, the limited edition, ultraexpensive supercar produced from 1992-94.
A member of the XJ220 team protested to Hayden that he had used his personal time to work on the supercar. That didn't wash with Hayden.
'At Ford, you don't have your own time,' he said. 'At Ford, weekends are part of the deal.'
Hayden did not much care whether he was liked. He just wanted to get the job done.
Said Bruce Blythe, former Ford of Europe vice president of strategy and a member of the team that negotiated the Jaguar purchase: 'It was the sheer force of Bill's personality and Bill's experience that enabled Jaguar to move into the 20th century.'