Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
As the Fords' only child, Edsel was groomed to take over the family business, and had grown up tinkering on cars with his father. He became secretary of Ford in 1915.
The younger Ford showed more interest than his father in flashier styling for automobiles. He indulged this proclivity in part with the purchase of the Lincoln Motor Company in 1922. His affinity for sporty cars was demonstrated in his personal vehicles: Edsel bought the first MG motorcar imported to the United States. In 1932 he had a V-8 boat-tailed speedster custom-designed for him, and two years later had another car designed, this one a low-riding aluminum-bodied speedster. The latter two cars he kept for the remainder of his life.
After becoming president of Ford, Edsel long advocated the introduction of a more modern automobile to replace the Model T, but was repeatedly overruled by his father. Flagging sales and dwindling market share for the company, however, finally made introduction of a new model inevitable.
During the design phase for the Model A, Henry Ford assured mechanical quality and reliability, leaving it to his son to flesh out the body design. This the younger Ford accomplished with the help of designer Joe Galamb . Edsel also prevailed upon his father to allow the inclusion of hydraulic brakes and a sliding-gear transmission on this model. The resulting Model A was a commercial success, selling over four million during four years of production.
As president, Edsel Ford was often at loggerheads with his father on major decisions, but he nevertheless managed to accomplish several lasting changes. Edsel Ford founded and named the Mercury division, and significantly strengthened Ford Motors' overseas production. He was also responsible for the Lincoln Zephyr and Lincoln Continental.
Like his father, Edsel's reputation is clouded over associations with Nazi Germany. Questions linger regarding what degree of control Edsel maintained over Ford plants in Germany and Vichy France during World War II, and over whether Ford shareholders profited from the forced labor the Nazis used at those plants. Ford Motor Company maintains that it lost control of the plants immediately after Germany declared war on the U.S.
Edsel and Eleanor had four children: Henry Ford II, Benson , Josephine , and William Clay. Each child inerited a large amount of shares in the Ford company and the three sons all worked in the family business.
Upon his death in Detroit from cancer at the age of only 49, all of Edsel Ford's nonvoting stock was donated through a codicil in his will to the Ford Foundation, which he had founded with his father seven years earlier.
See also: Edsel
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