PACIFIC GROVE, CA — (WWJ) Retired Ford CEO Harold “Red” Poling has died. He was 86, and had been living in Pacific Grove, California.
Poling spent 43 years with Ford, and was CEO from 1990-93.
“Red Poling was an extraordinary leader who had a profound impact on Ford Motor Company and everyone who worked with him,” said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford. “With a list of accomplishments that span 43 years, including leading the company through a remarkable turnaround during the 1980s and 1990s, Red was respected by all for his leadership, his passion for being the low-cost producer and his genuine affinity for people. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Poling joined Ford in 1951 as a cost analyst with the company’s steel division. He rose through the ranks, taking charge of North American Operations in 1980. He also served as President and Chief Operating Officer, before becoming Chairman and CEO in 1990.
“He was a finance guy, that, I think, understood the whole business well, who did a very good job of leading Ford in a very interesting and challenging period,” said David Cole, founder of the Center for Auto Research.
When Poling retired, Ford had a 25 percent market share, and five of the ten best selling vehicles in the U.S. Poling was part of the management team in the eighties that spent the then unprecedented sum of $3 billion to revamp a stale model lineup, and introduce the Ford Taurus.
“We bet the company,” said Poling, a few years later. “It was a tremendous gamble, but it has paid off handsomely.”
Even before joining Ford, Poling had an interest in cars.
“I spent quite a bit of time working with my father, who was an auto mechanic,” Poling remembered. “We’d grind valves, change piston rings and clutches, and do lots of other jobs. It was serious work, but to me it was very interesting.”
Poling’s first vehicle was a Ford Model A.
“I bought it used, but it was in great shape and it had a rumble seat.”
While Poling’s time at the top of Ford was fairly brief, just three years, Dave Cole from the Center for Auto Research said he made an impact in his typical understated way.
“He really brought a level of professionalism and stability that was quite important.”
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