DETROIT — Two of the late Henry Ford II's most famous sayings as head of Ford Motor Co. were: “It's my name on the building,” affirming who was in charge, and “There are no crown princes at Ford,” precluding automatic family claims to the top.
His son, Edsel Ford II, cited the latter quote as the auto maker marked last month's centennial of the company founded by Edsel II's great-grandfather Henry.
Henry II died in 1987. A series of non-kinfolk followed in his corporate footsteps as the head of Ford Motor Co. A family member is now chairman and CEO: William Clay Ford Jr. took over in Oct. of 2001.
Edsel II says his cousin's rise to the top had more to do with work ethic than family connections.
“No matter who you are, if you are not going to be hard-working and loyal, then look for work somewhere else,” he says during an appearance before the Automotive Press Assn. here.
Conversely, he says, “You can't assume a family member won't be a sound Ford manager. My cousin Bill is, and I was during my 25 years with the company.”
Edsel II, who at one time was thought to be a contender for the top spot, retired in 1998 after serving in various executive posts, including the head of Ford Motor Credit Co.
Although he calls himself a “retiree,” he still works for the company as an ombudsman for dealer relations.
“I have undying respect for our dealers and all dealers,” he says. “They're the heartbeat of the industry. People often lose sight that they are our distribution point. We tried once to sell direct to customers, and realized we didn't know how.”
He deflects questions as to whether his sons (including the eldest, Henry III), nephews or even a niece might someday run Ford.
But he adds, “There's room for any family member at the company if they are willing to work hard and keep their head down.”
He notes, “There has never been a single day in the entire 100 years of our history when we didn't have a Ford family member working within our company.”