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Ross Roberts: 1938-2014

Wed, 29 Jan 2014

Ross Roberts, a former Ford Division general manager who helped turn trucks into everyday vehicles--not to mention a really good guy with a large personality and bigger laugh--died Jan. 28. He was 75.

Roberts was Ford Division general manager from 1991 to 1998. He also steered the Taurus toward five years as the best-selling car in the U.S.

“I remember Ross very well and very fondly,” said Edsel Ford. “I worked for him for several years when we were both at Lincoln Mercury [Roberts also ran Lincoln for two years]. I was the sales manager, and he was the general manager. We worked together for many, many years. The thing about Ross is that if you worked well with him, if you knew the system that he worked well in, he would be very supportive of you. We tried some new and different things at LM, and we were successful. The industry is going to miss guys like him.”

When Roberts retired in 1999 after 37 years with Ford, Autoweek sister publication Automotive News called him one of the last powerful GMs who controlled the North American market.

As Ford GM Roberts also led a truck powerhouse; The Explorer, for example, went from fringe to mainstream under his watch. He made U.S. customers fall in love with Explorer’s rugged off-road talent even though, in reality, they rarely spent time on the trail.

Roberts was born in Gainesville, Texas, on Feb. 3, 1938. He joined Ford in 1962 after graduating from the University of Oklahoma and serving in the U.S. Army.

He spent time in Ford regional sales before he was named Ford general manager in 1985 and VP in 1988. He also ran Lincoln. He was named to the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2001.

He is survived by his wife, Donna; three children and four grandchildren.

By Wes Raynal