DETROIT -- Ross Roberts, a former Ford Division general manager who helped turn trucks into everyday vehicles, died today. He was 75.
Roberts was Ford Division general manager from 1991 to 1998, when he also steered the Taurus to a five-year reign as the best-selling car in the United States. The title has been owned every year since by the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry.
When Roberts retired at the end of 1999 after a 37-year Ford career, Automotive News called him "one of the last of a generation of powerful general managers who controlled the North American market at Ford Motor and General Motors."
"I thought he was one of the best sales managers and heads of divisions I've known in all my years in the business. He was great with the dealers," said Fraser Lemley, CEO of Sentry Auto Group in Medford, Mass.
"You'd go into a meeting feeling depressed, you'd have a meeting with him and you'd go back to your store and figure out a way to buy more product."
The automaker mined that affection when installing Roberts in his last post at Ford, president of Ford Investment Enterprises. The subsidiary oversaw a consolidation strategy known as the Ford Retail Network.
The initiative drew strong opposition from dealers who saw the venture as an intrusion into local retailing.