Ford named Jim Hackett its 10th CEO Monday. The 114-year-old company did not have an official CEO role until it went public in the 1950s. So Henry and Edsel Ford served as presidents of the company but never CEO.
A look at the men who preceded Hackett as the top executive of Ford Motor Co.
Henry Ford, 1906-1918, 1943-1945
Industrialist Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor company in 1903. A titan of industry, Henry Ford was the first to adapt assembly line techniques to the auto industry with the Model T, and for the first time brought car ownership into the realm of possibilities for middle-class Americans. While Henry Ford passed on the title of president to his son Edsel in 1919, there was little question that the elder Ford remained solidly in control until he officially passed on the title in 1945 to his grandson.
Edsel Ford, 1919-1943
While he struggled daily for control of the company with his larger-than-life father, Edsel helped move Ford back into market dominance in the late 1920s with the introduction of the Ford Model A. Under Edsel Ford, the company purchased Lincoln Motor Co. which eventually became Ford’s higher-end brand to compete with the likes of Buick and Cadillac. Edsel Ford unexpectedly died in 1943, at the height of World War II, forcing the elderly Henry Ford to return to running the company.
Henry Ford II, 1945-1979
The grandson of the company’s founder, Henry Ford II was CEO from 1945 to 1979. He led the company through some of its greatest years but also endured some of its biggest failures. Under Henry Ford II, the company created the popular Thunderbird and Mustang, but also the Edsel marketing flop and the fire-prone Pinto. Ford became a publicly-traded company under Henry Ford II as well.
Philip Caldwell, 1979-1985
Caldwell was the first CEO of Ford who wasn’t a member of the Ford Family. While his successors Donald Petersen and Harold Poling are known for the creation of some of Ford’s most iconic brands, Caldwell is best known for being the CEO who started the turnaround effort at Ford during the company’s most troubled years.
Donald Petersen, 1985-1990
Petersen was the first of two consecutive CEOs at Ford who are credited with turning around the company when Ford was struggling against the intense competition from Japanese automakers. Petersen tasked management to create cars that they themselves would be “proud to park in their driveways.” The change in corporate culture eventually led to creation of some of Ford’s biggest sellers, like the Explorer and Taurus.
Harold “Red” Poling, 1990-1993
Nicknamed “Red” for his hair, Poling is best known for being a top executive at Ford through two recessions: the early 1980s downturn and the recession in the early 1990s. During the 1980s, Poling along with Petersen pushed Ford to invest money in a new model platform that eventually became known as the Ford Taurus.
Alexander Trotman, 1993-1999
Born in the U.K., Trotman held numerous positions at Ford before he became its first foreign-born CEO in the early 1990s. Trotman’s biggest contribution to the company as CEO was an attempt to move Ford’s various brands worldwide to start sharing parts and platforms to help lower production costs.
Jacques Nasser, 1999-2001
While Nasser became CEO of Ford with the goal of diversifying the automaker and expanding its luxury brands, his three-year tenure was dominated by the Ford-Firestone tire recall and product safety scandal. Ford ended up recalling more than 20 million Firestone tires and the scandal ended the 100-year partnership between Ford and Firestone.
William Clay Ford Jr., 2001-2006
The great-grandson of Henry Ford, William Clay Ford Jr. focused Ford on larger, heavier vehicles. His attention to large vehicles left Ford unprepared for the sudden change in consumer interests that occurred once gasoline prices spiked and the housing market crashed. He remains Ford’s chairman.
Alan Mulally, 2006-2013
A former executive at Boeing, Mulally became CEO of Ford at a time of crisis for the company and the industry. High gasoline prices were pushing Americans away from SUVs and trucks and into low-profit small vehicles. Mulally cut costs, sold off brands and restructured the company and Ford was the only Detroit automaker not to take government bailout money during the Great Recession.
Mark Fields, 2014-2017
Fields had the difficult job of replacing Mulally, who achieved hero status. In his three years, Fields began moving Ford from a traditional automaker into a “mobility” company with plans to build autonomous vehicles and explore ride-hailing and car-sharing. Ford posted a record pretax profit of $10.8 billion in 2015. But the stock price fell nearly 40 percent during Fields’ tenure.