Bill Hayden, a former Ford of Europe manufacturing executive who is credited with modernizing Jaguar, died on Aug. 11. He was 86.
Hayden succeeded John Egan as chairman and CEO of Jaguar in 1990, a year after Ford purchased the British brand, which made its name building sporty cars.
Models such as the Jaguar E-Type had helped to make the company world famous in the 1960s but when Hayden took charge the company had fallen behind the times. He was not impressed with what he found. "It wasn't that Jaguar's quality was bad, it was horrendous," Hayden told Automotive News Europe in 2003. "It was a terrible organization making terrible cars."
Hayden had already built a fearsome reputation as a very demanding taskmaster while managing Ford's European manufacturing operations. He told ANE in 2003 that the people at Jaguar “didn't really seem to understand what a mess they were in. They seemed to think just being Jaguar, somehow they would survive. Somehow I had to get their attention."
Hayden got their attention by making a comment that became a legend around Jaguar's base in Coventry, England. Hayden said the only factory he had ever seen that was worse than the automaker's plant in Browns Lane, was the GAZ factory he toured in Gorky, Russia. Hayden had seen GAZ workers actually applying paint over bird droppings deposited on the roofs of cars by pigeons flying around inside the plant. The Gorky comment hurt workers badly, but it also woke them up.
Terry Green, a former line worker at Browns Lane, remembered Hayden's Gorky comment. “I've got to be honest,” Green told ANE in late 1999. “The lads were sick on the shop floor. They couldn't believe a person would say such a thing. It wasn't very good for public relations.” But Green credited Ford with saving Jaguar from oblivion.
In the same story, Bruce Blythe, former Ford of Europe vice president of strategy and a member of the team that negotiated the Jaguar purchase praised Hayden's tenacity: “It was the sheer force of Bill's personality and Bill's experience that enabled Jaguar to move into the 20th century.”
Hayden was born Jan. 19, 1929, in Custom House, East London. He spent his childhood in the area where many people evacuated during World War II because of the high risk of air strikes.
Rapid career rise
In the early 1950s, he joined Briggs Motor Bodies, which would be bought by Ford. During this period of time he met his future wife, Mavis, whom he married in 1953. Mavis died in 2003, according to information provide by the family.
Hayden rose quickly at Ford and by the mid-1970s he was vice president of manufacturing at Ford of Europe.
Hayden retired from his post at Jaguar chairman in 1992. Already an avid golfer, he dedicated more time to the game after his retirement. He was also a life long fan of the West Ham United soccer club of the English Premier League. For many years he had season tickets to the club's matches.
Hayden is survived by his four children. His son, Chris, told ANE in an e-mail exchange that the family has received numerous messages of sympathy including many anecdotes of memorable incidents regarding not only Hayden's toughness but also his willingness to help people progress their careers and assist them with issues in their lives away from work.