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By Robert Tate, Award-Winning Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of The Henry Ford Media Center Archives
Published 5.22.2024


William Clay Ford Jr with his father William Clay Ford Sr The Detroit Bureau CROPPED AND RESIZED 1William Clay Ford Jr with his father William Clay Ford Sr (The Detroit Bureau)

Ford Motor Company is one of the most advanced and profitable companies in the world. Its founder, Henry Ford, was one of the greatest automotive innovators who changed the industry and put America on wheels. From the first Model T, the perfected moving assembly line, the popular 1949 Ford, the iconic 1964 Mustang, and the popular 2024 Bronco, the company has a great legacy that continues to grow today.

Bill Jr with Edsel and William Clay Ford Sr Ford Media Center CROPPED 2Bill Jr (center) with cousin Edsel II and William Clay Ford Sr. at Greenfield Village (Ford Media Center)

One of the most talented leaders that continues to keep Ford Motor Company on the road to advancement in engineering and great design is William Clay Ford Jr. Known to most as Bill, he was born May 3, 1957, in Detroit, Michigan. His father was the late William Clay Ford Sr. He has served as Executive Chair for Ford Motor Company since 1999 and is the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford.

Bill Ford Jr with an early Ford model Ford Media Center 3Bill Ford Jr with an early Ford model (Ford Media Center)

Bill Ford Jr. began his career at the company bearing his name after graduating from the prestigious Princeton University with a degree in History in 1979. He has held positions in Product Development and the Climate Control Division, becoming the Managing Director of Ford Switzerland in 1987. He joined the Board of Directors in 1988, was elected a Vice President in 1994, and would later become Chairman of the Finance Committee in 1995.

Bill Ford Jr standing with a Ford model Ford Media Center RESIZED 4Bill Ford Jr in the 2000s (Ford Media Center)

In the aftermath of a number of fatal accidents involving the Ford Explorer and Firestone Tires, Bill Ford was elevated to Chief Executive Officer in October 2001, replacing Jac Nasser. He stayed in that position almost five years until September 2006.

Bill Ford Jr standing with Ford Mustang Ford Media Center 5Bill Ford Jr standing with a Ford Mustang (Ford Media Center)

A longtime environmentalist, Bill Ford has encouraged the company to make technological progress toward improving fuel efficiency, including the introduction of the Hybrid Electric Escape model, then the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market. He has also helped create and establish low-volume manufacturing plants within emerging markets. Some automotive writers have said that “this successful businessman may share the surname of his great grandfather, but he surely has made a name for himself in his industry.”

Bill Ford Jr standing next to more Ford cars Ford Media Center 6Bill Ford Jr (Ford Media Center)

Automotive historians have said that William Clay Ford Jr. “was a product of his generation.” His management style is impressive with hard work, long hours and dedication. “I believe the purpose of a company is to make people’s lives better,” he said.

William Clay Ford Jr speaking at an event 7William Clay Ford Jr speaking at an event (

In 2015, Bill Ford received the prestigious “Ambassador for Humanity” recognition by the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation Institute. He also has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Michigan and a number of other honorary degrees from institutions around the world. Finally, Bill is also Vice Chairman of the National Football League’s Detroit Lions.  

Bill Ford Jr speaking at an event Ford Media Center 8Bill Ford Jr speaking at an event, 2021 (Ford Media Center)

In conclusion, William Clay Ford Jr. has demonstrated great leadership skills both in the community and the auto industry. 2024 will be a special year for Bill Ford, who will be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan this September. His great success over the years has built a great legacy in the auto industry.


Reference for Business Encyclopedia. “William Clay Ford Jr. 1957.”

Maynard, Micheline. “William Clay Ford Jr: From Driver to Passenger.” International Herald Tribune. September 10, 2006.

Ford Newsroom/Multimedia. “William Clay Ford Jr. Executive Chair.” Ford Media Center.