BIOGRAPHY: GORDON MORTON MCGREGOR
- Founder of Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited – the oldest incorporated company manufacturing automobiles in Canada
- At an early age, he learned thrift and developed a keen instinct that contributed to his great success in the world of business
- Born in Windsor, Ontario, January 18, 1873, he died on March 11, 1922
Gordon McGregor entered into partnership with his father, William McGregor, President of the Walkerville Wagon Company Limited, Walkerville, Ontario (now Windsor, Ontario). He took over the management of the company in 1901 and, on the death of his father in 1903, Gordon McGregor assumed the Presidency of the company.
At a meeting with his brothers, Walter and Donald, in January 1904, Gordon McGregor said, "There are men in Detroit who say every farmer will soon be using an automobile. I don't see why we cannot build them here in the wagon factory." Shortly thereafter he went to his banker friend, John Curry, and discussed his ideas. Together they visited existing manufacturers of automobiles in the Detroit area, including Oldsmobile, Cadillac and Ford. Buick was just getting started. General Motors was four years in the future as was R. S. McLaughlin in Canada.
McGregor was most impressed with Henry Ford and the feeling was obviously mutual for it resulted in McGregor obtaining a personal agreement which allowed him to form and finance a company to manufacture and sell Ford products in Canada. Additionally, he obtained the right to sell Ford products in the then existing British Empire, exclusive of the British Isles. This farsightedness on the part of McGregor has resulted in Ford of Canada having wholly owned subsidiaries in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
The agreement was signed August 10, 1904. In exchange for this, McGregor agreed to give 51 percent of the stock of Ford of Canada to the Shareholders of Ford U.S.A.
A Provincial Charter was issued on August 17, 1904. On August 29, 1904 the first Shareholders' meeting was held to elect officers and set policy. John S. Gray, President, Ford Motor Company, Detroit, was elected President of the Canadian company; Henry Ford, Vice President, and John Curry, Treasurer.
At the age of 31, Gordon McGregor, the man who had the vision and did the spadework, was appointed General Manager and Secretary. From then on he actually ran the company. It was because of his drive and perseverance that the company grew and yet he never, at any time, sought or accepted the Presidency. It was a great tribute to his ability and judgment that Henry Ford, who was later President of the Canadian Company, did not attend Directors' meetings for a period of approximately 15 years, saying that he saw no point in disrupting a smooth-running organization.
Production of Ford automobiles in Canada started in the Wagon Works on October 10, 1904, and, by the end of the calendar year, 25 cars had been assembled.
In the beginning, parts were shipped from Detroit by barge and hauled to the plant by horse drawn wagons. But bodies and wheels were manufactured in Canada. Gradually more and more parts were made in Canada. By May 1913, with the opening of an engine plant, all components were being made in Canada.
In those early years of the automobile there was much skepticism and it was a struggle to make the company a paying proposition – but McGregor did. Less capable men might have given up, but Gordon McGregor had the ability to guide the company through difficult times. In the beginning he was known to take a newly assembled car out on the road – sell it and return by train.
In addition to building the business, he actively developed people. A young man, Wallace R. Campbell, whom he hired as bookkeeper, showed promise and was developed to become McGregor's assistant. When Mr. McGregor died, Campbell took over and ran the business. In 1929 he became the first Canadian-born President. With faith in his company, his country and the future, McGregor steadily built his dream and today Ford of Canada has become one of the largest industrial organizations in this country.
On November 2, 1898 he married Harriett Dobbs. They had five children – two sons, Gordon and William, and three daughters, Harriett, Elizabeth and Nancy.
He constantly gave of himself to community and national interests. He became a Director of several large corporations. No appeal for Church or charity ever found him anything but a willing giver, his philanthropies being as outstanding as his business enterprise.
He saw the company he founded expand from producing 117 cars in its first fiscal year, to 51,341 in the year 1922, which resulted in almost seven out of 10 cars sold in Canada being built by Ford of Canada. He saw his company become the first automobile manufacturer in Canada to build the complete automobile from raw material to the finished product.
He died when he was only 49 years old as a result of injuries sustained in a railway accident some years previously. Yet, in the 18 years of his involvement in the automobile industry in Canada, he undoubtedly contributed more than any other man of his time. His influence continued through those he trained who went on to make the company what it is today.