Unlikely 'green' at helm of car giant

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William Clay Ford Jnr may bear the most famous surname in motoring history, but in many other respects he is an unlikely chief executive of the world's second-biggest car maker.

The great grandson of the company's founder, Henry Ford, Bill is a lifelong environmentalist who believes that one day its production lines will be driven by wind power and that the internal combustion engine will be replaced by the fuel cell within 25 years. Aged just 44, he has worked for Ford for 22 years. But it nearly did not happen that way. Early in his career he was asked to stop associating with environmental groups or reconsider his career with the family company.

Mr Ford ignored the advice and today Ford is in the vanguard of those multinational companies promoting environmental responsibility, human rights and corporate citizenship.

Under his chairmanship, it is pursuing the holy grail of "sustainable mobility" – the idea that cars can be both built and driven in a way that minimises harm to the environment. Ford quit the Global Climate Coalition – a body dedicated to fighting the Kyoto agreement – and published its first-ever corporate citizenship report, despite criticisms that the company was undermining its own products. He is also turning Ford's Rouge car plant in Detroit into a model of sustainable manufacturing.

Mr Ford lists his hobbies as fly-fishing, hockey and tennis and admits to being a car enthusiast. But under no circumstances call him a petrol head – since he is also a black belt in the martial art of taekwondo.