DETROIT (Reuters) - Philip Caldwell, the first CEO of Ford Motor Co
Caldwell, who lived in New Caanan, Conn., was 93. He died of complications from a stroke, his family said on Thursday.
Henry Ford II chose Caldwell to replace him as Ford CEO in 1979 over Lee Iacocca, whom Ford fired as the company's president the year before. Caldwell was named chairman in 1980.
During his six years at the helm of the company in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Caldwell led Ford through an industry-wide economic downturn and oversaw the introduction of the Ford Taurus.
The automaker lost more than $3 billion during the 1980-82 recession, but Ford was profitable again by 1983, as the company made $1.3 billion.
The Taurus was introduced in 1985 for the 1986 model year and became one of Ford's best-selling vehicles well into the 1990s.
In a 1985 interview with the New York Times on the eve of his retirement, Caldwell said improved vehicle quality was key to Ford's turnaround.
"We put vehicles on the road which customers wanted to buy, and that's why our market share is up."
Caldwell retired after 32 years with Ford, and was a Ford company director until 1990. He began his automotive career in 1953 in purchasing and engineering, after serving as a civilian procurement executive for the Navy Department in Washington.
Ford Chairman Bill Ford said in a statement that Caldwell had a "remarkable impact" at Ford.
"He helped guide the company through a difficult turnaround in the 1980s and drove the introductions of ground-breaking products around the globe," Ford said.
Caldwell was born in Bourneville, Ohio in 1920. He graduated from Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio in 1940 and earned an MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1942.
He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Betsey, along with three children, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
(Reporting by Joseph Lichterman; Editing by James Dalgleish)