Philip Caldwell, father of the groundbreaking 1986 Taurus has died. He was 93.
In 1979 Caldwell became Ford Motor Co.’s first chief executive officer who wasn’t a member of the founder’s family.
Caldwell died Wednesday at his Connecticut home, according to his family, who confirmed the death through the automaker. His death followed complications from a stroke.
“Philip Caldwell had a remarkable impact at Ford Motor Co. over a span of more than 30 years,” Bill Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford, said in a statement. “Serving as CEO and later as chairman of the board of directors, he helped guide the company through a difficult turnaround in the 1980s and drove the introductions of ground-breaking products around the globe.”
Caldwell succeeded Henry Ford II, grandson of founder Henry Ford. Caldwell became chairman of the board a year later.
He worked in many departments during his early days at Ford, including purchasing, engineering, product planning and manufacturing.
Caldwell was picked as vice president of Ford and general manager of truck operations for North America in 1968. In 1973 he was named head of Ford’s international operations, responsible for everything outside the U.S. and Canada.
Among his accomplishments were creation of the Fiesta small car in 1976, turning around Ford’s balance sheet after a stretch of billion-dollar losses in the early 1980s and helping mitigate the fallout from gas tank fires in the Ford Pinto.
Under his watch, Ford introduced the “Quality is Job 1” mantra that led to a series of television commercials showing factory workers instituting ways to improve quality.
Caldwell also envisioned three decades ago many of the electronics that are available in vehicles today, including voice recognition, satellite navigation and braking-assist.
Former Ford and GM executive Bob Lutz recounts Caldwell’s career in his book, “Icons and Idiots: Straight Talk on Leadership.” When Ford executives told Caldwell his obsession with quality was expensive, Caldwell said: “We may go out of business. I hope we don’t but if we do, I want people to say, ‘What a shame? They were building the best cars and trucks in the world. ’”
Caldwell pushed European-influenced designs in Ford’s U.S. vehicles, especially the Ford Taurus.
Caldwell retired from the company in 1985, and from the board of directors in 1990.
Following his retirement, he became senior managing director of Shearson Lehman Brothers Inc.
Caldwell is survived by his wife of 68 years, Betsey; and three children, Lawrence, Lucy and Désirée.
Karl Henkel and David Shepardson
The Detroit News: