Robert Rewey, retired Ford sales and marketing chief who was responsible for promoting car-friendly features in its truck line — leading up to the ultra-successful Explorer SUV — passed away Saturday, November 29th in Palm Beach, FL after a brief illness.
Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford characterized Rewey as “a great marketing visionary” who “inspired a passion for connecting with the customer at Ford and initiated many groundbreaking marketing innovations, including leasing and brand management that set the standard for the entire auto industry. He was a compassionate leader who served as a role model for so many people that were fortunate enough to know him and work with him.”
A 1997 Ford profile quoted him as saying that the role of marketing “is to be the customer’s champion to assure that every product and service decision be made with the full understanding of who the customer actually is, and what he or she ultimately wants.”
Among Mustang fans, he’s credited with pushing back against the plan to make the pony car a front-wheel drive vehicle. That car became the Ford Probe instead. But perhaps Rewey’s strongest contribution to Ford was the idea of leasing. During the 1980 recession, Rewey pushed to introduce the 24-month “Red Carpet Leasing” program. “Sixty month loans are not good for the customer or the company” since they “force customers to stick with a car too long”, with the result being that “customer satisfaction and loyalty suffers.”
After 38 years with The Blue Oval, Rewey retired from Ford in 2001 and then joined board of directors of Sonic Automotive — one of the largest automotive dealer groups in the United States. “Bob was just a really fantastic individual that over his career and life affected so many people”, said Sonic president Scott Smith. “He had a wealth of knowledge that made our company so much stronger. It’s a tremendous loss for us.”
“Bob has been an outstanding business leader for Ford Motor Company,” Ford’s then-CEO, Jacques Nasser, said during Rewey’s 2001 retirement. “His innovative actions in areas such as leasing, automotive brand management and people development mark him as a true icon in our industry.”