Monday 18th March 1878
Born on this day, Percival Lea Dewhurst Perry, 1st Baron Perry KBE, English motor vehicle manufacturer. He was chairman of Ford Motor Company Limited for 20 years from its incorporation in 1928 completing almost a lifetime’s work with Henry Ford. He also led the establishment of Slough Estates.
Perry was born on 18 March 1878 in Bristol. He won a scholarship to King Edward’s School, Birmingham
In 1902 he married Catherine Meals of Hull. He first worked in a lawyer’s office, but then moved to work in the motor industry. Two years later, Aubrey Blakiston established Ford’s first British agency (the Central Motor Co) in Long Acre, London. Perry joined the company as a minority shareholder in 1905, and after Blakiston’s departure became managing director in 1906. He travelled to Detroit to seek investment in the company from Henry Ford. Although the mission was unsuccessful, good relationships were established.
By 1908, the Central Motor Company was in trouble, despite bringing in new partners and finance. Perry left the company, and briefly imported and sold REO cars. When Ford decided to pursue direct investment in Britain, he contacted Perry who in 1909 was appointed manager of a Ford branch company for Britain.
As effective head of Ford in Britain, in 1911, Perry opened Ford’s first factory outside North America in Trafford Park, Manchester.
In 1916 Perry formed Automobiles Ford in Paris to take over Ford operations in France.
Henry Ford’s pacifist leanings did not make him or his company popular in wartime Britain. Perry, by contrast, devoted his time and effort to making Ford of Britain appear patriotic and loyal. From 1916 to 1918, Perry served in the First World War civil service as Assistant Controller of the UK Government’s Agricultural Machinery Department. Ford supplied many vehicles to the war effort. In 1917 Perry was appointed CBE and was knighted (KBE) in 1918. Although successful in protecting Ford’s UK position, Perry’s active involvement in wartime British politics did not play well with Ford’s head office in Detroit. In 1919, he was sacked. Ford’s British operations were run by managers sent from Detroit until 1928.
Free from involvement with Ford, Perry was available to lead the consortium which in 1920 purchased the Slough military motor transport depot which became the Slough Trading Estate. In 1922 – 1923, he persuaded Andre Citroen to begin building cars on the Slough Trading Estate.
In the meantime, Ford’s Detroit based management of Ford of Britain had not been successful. In 1928, Perry was recalled to develop the new plant at Dagenham, and to head Ford’s operations in all Europe. In 1938 Perry was created 1st Baron Perry.