Henry Ford II would be perplexed -- and angry.
But I don't know whether he would be more upset about the success of Japanese automakers or the way his own company is being managed.
The news that Ford Motor Co. was outsold by Toyota Motor Corp. in the United States last month would have hit him hard. Remember, Ford believed that U.S. automakers eventually would push the Japanese back to the sea, and he said so.
Henry Ford II never seemed to have a bitter anti-Japanese bias, even though he was a member of what Tom Brokaw dubbed America's "greatest generation," many of whom never forgot Pearl Harbor nor forgave the Japanese.
HFII served briefly in the U.S. Navy during World War II, though after his father, Edsel Ford, died in 1943 he was discharged early so he could go home and run the family business, which just happened to be one of America's biggest industrial companies and an important part of the Arsenal of Democracy.
He did a good job, too, for three decades, right through the early 1970s. But by the time Henry Ford II handed command over to Phil Caldwell in 1980, Ford Motor Co. had been hammered by the oil crises, had lost market share and was hemorrhaging red ink.
Henry Ford II is said to have apologized to his successor for the condition of the company, but he never stopped believing in the strength of Ford Motor Co. and its people.
Under Caldwell, the company did bounce back by cutting costs and developing great new products. Since then, there have been good years and not-so-good years under a variety of good and not-so-good CEOs, most of whom were rock-ribbed, lifelong Ford men.
But through the years, even the good years, Ford's ability to bounce back has eroded as more competitors from overseas have strengthened their grip in America.
Ford is now No. 3. Can it bounce back again?
I wonder whether Bill Ford is wondering what his uncle would do right about now.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]