The architect of Ford Motor Co.'s dealership network went from a prison cell to the automaker's executive suite.
Norval Hawkins came to Henry Ford's attention after he had done time for embezzling $8,000 from Standard Oil Co. But because of Hawkins' experience with organizing auto companies, Ford hired him as an auditor in 1907.
Hawkins quickly advanced to become Ford Motor's commercial and general sales manager. He developed the company's system of tying production schedules to sales estimates. He set up regional offices to oversee Ford's 11,000 U.S. dealerships.
From the time Hawkins joined Ford until he left in 1919, the company's annual U.S. sales rose from 14,877 vehicles to 946,155.
General Motors then hired Hawkins away as a sales, service and advertising consultant. GM paid him $150,000 a year -- the equivalent of $1.5 million in 2006 dollars.
Hawkins lasted two years with GM. After he left the company, he tried his hand at selling baby buggies. He went broke during the Depression and died in 1936 at age 69.
For the rest of the story about the history, growth and future of the dealer franchise system in the United States, don't miss the Sept. 25 special issue of Automotive News: The Franchise: A Century of Factory-Dealer Cooperation, Tension and Prosperity -- Why the Franchise System Dominates.