Former Ford CEO Harold “Red” Poling passes away at the age of 86

Article by Christian A., on May 18, 2012

Former Ford CEO, Harold "Red" Poling, passed away last Saturday at the age of 86 in Pacific Grove, Calif. Poling is credited for having pushed Ford into a revival as he managed the company to get through the recession during the early 1990s. In a statement, Executive Chairman Bill Ford said that Polling had been an “extraordinary leader” who had a deep effect on the company and those he worked with.

He said that Polling had numerous achievements in his 43-year career such as steering Ford to have a stunning recovery in the 1980s and 1990s. He earned plenty of respect for his leadership, his zeal in being a low-cost producer and the fact that he genuinely liked people. In 1990, Polling became CEO as Don Petersen’s replacement. In 1993, Alex Trotman took over. Trotman passed away in 2005.

Poling had been a meticulous financial leader at Ford where he was able to raise its profits to be much higher than that of General Motors in the late 1980s. Poling and Petersen were two of the key lieutenants of Philip Caldwell, the first nonfamily member to head the automaker after Henry Ford II stepped down on Oct. 1, 1979.

When Petersen was CEO and Poling was president in 1986, Ford’s profits amounting to $3.3 billion surpassed GM’s $2.9 billion for the first time since 1924.

Ford was able to raise its profits further, breaking industry records back then with $5.3 billion in 1988. As chairman and CEO of Ford from 1990 to 1994, Poling was able to lead the company through a deep recession, when Ford's sales in North America and Europe fell and losses amounted to $9.64 billion in 1991 and 1992. Upon Poling’s retirement, Ford had acquired 25.3% of the U.S. auto market, from 21% in 1983. It posted a net income of $2.53 billion in 1993, his last full year in Ford.

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