- George W. Mason
George Walter Mason (
March 12 1891- October 9 1954) was an American industrialist. During his career Mason served as the Chairman and CEO of the Kelvinator Corporation (1928-1937), Chairman and CEO of the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation(1937-1954), and Chairman and CEO of American Motors Corporation(1954).
George W. Mason was born in
Valley City, North Dakota. Mason received his education at the University of Michiganwhere he designed a specific course for engineering students that combined three years of engineering and a final year in business administration.
Mason had worked for local garages in his youth and upon receiving his degree from Michigan, he accepted a position with
Studebaker. Mason changed employers several times before entering military service during World War I. In 1921, Mason secured a position with Walter P. Chryslerat Maxwell-Chalmers, which Chrysler had reorganized and would use to develop Chryslerbrand automobiles.
From Maxwell-Chalmers, Mason went to Copeland Products of Detroit in 1926 before becoming the President of the Kelvinator Corporation, a leader in the emerging electric refrigeration industry. Under Mason, Kelvinator quadrupled its profits and became second only to
General Motors Frigidaireproduct line in home refrigeration sales despite the effects of the Great Depression.
When Charles Nash, founder of
Nash Motorsbegan looking for his successor, he turned to Mason upon the recommendation of Walter Chrysler. Mason initially rebuffed Nash’s offer, however when Nash asked what it would take to bring Mason over to Nash, Mason stated that he would not take the position if Kelvinator was not included in the deal. Nash saw merit in this idea; General Motors owned Frigidaire, BorgWarnerowned Norge Appliance, and Chrysleroperated its own air conditioningdivision, Airtemp. Nash and Mason came to terms and the deal announced in November 1936. The two firms merged to form Nash-Kelvinator Corporationwith Mason as its CEO. By 1940, Mason continued to grow Kelvinator’s market share and returned Nash to profitable status.
Following World War II, Mason began exploring the possibilities of envelope bodies for
full-size cars at the behest of Nash’s Chief of engineering, Nils Erik Wahlberg. The two moved ahead with an aerodynamic body design for the 1949 Nash that would extend the body of the car over cars front wheels. The design was introduced as the Airflyte, and enshrouded front wheels remained a Nash hallmark until 1957.
Mason, it should be noted, was a large and gregarious man, standing well more than six feet tall and weighing over 300 pounds. Despite his large physical size, he was fascinated with small cars, especially the concept of a small, inexpensive car and how one would fit into Nash’s plans for future development. As a result, Nash introduced three
Nash Rambler– Mason’s vision for a small inexpensive compact car was changed in light of raw goods shortages, so Mason directed the car to emerge not as a stripped down economy car, but as an upmarket compact sedan-convertible.
Nash-Healey– the first American sports car after the Great Depressionand developed with partners in Great Britain and Italy.
* Metropolitan – a subcompact car built in cooperation with Great Britain’s Austin Motors.
However, General Motors and
Ford Motor Companywere locked in a battle for market supremacy that started in 1945 when Ford's new president, Henry Ford II, had a burning desire to make his company number one again. [ [http://www.hemmings.com/hcc/stories/2005/11/01/hmn_feature7.html] Farrell, J. and Farrell, C. (2005) "Ford's Stylerama", Hemmings Classic Car, November 1.] By 1953, all of the independent automobile manufactures were also feeling the after effects of Henry Ford’s plan to dump tens of thousands of vehicles into the market at discounted prices to try and wrestle the top automotive manufacturing title from GM. [Mays, J. (1998) "When AMC's George Romney reined in the dinosaurs", Old Cars, October 15. p. 6.] General Motors responded by doing the same. With the market flooded by inexpensive cars, Studebaker, Packard, Willys, Hudson, Kaiser Motors, and Nash were all unable to sell vehicles at loss-leader prices to keep up with Ford and GM. [Bresnahan, T.F. (1987) "Competition and Collusion in the American Automobile Industry: The 1955 Price War", The Journal of Industrial Economics, Vol. 35, No. 4, The Empirical Renaissance in Industrial Economics, June, pp. 457-482.]
Legacy with AMC
Mason eventually banded together Nash and the
Hudson Motor Car Companyto benefit from the varieties of strength that each brought to the table. While formal and informal merger talks were held between Nash and the various independents, the only merger that Mason actually entered into was with the aforementioned Hudson, which occurred in the early months of 1954 to form American Motors Corporation(AMC). Similar mergers between Willys and Kaiser, Studebaker and Packard also happened between 1953 and 1954.
Within months of the closure of the deal, George Mason died at age 63 of acute
pancreatitisand pneumoniain Detroit, Michigan. Mason's protégé, AMC Vice President George W. Romney, succeeded Mason as Chairman and CEO. One of Romney's first acts was to stop rumors that there were additional merger talks between AMC and Studebaker-Packard Corporationor any automakers. According to Mason's obituary in Time Magazine, had AMC and Studebaker-Packard joined, it would have resulted in the second largest automaker in the world, behind General Motors. [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,936541,00.html] "Milestones", Time Magazine, October 18, 1954. Accessed on May 24, 2007.]
Legacy in conservation
Following his death it was disclosed that Mason, a former President of
Ducks Unlimited, had left a gift to the Michigan Department of Natural Resourcesconsisting of acre to km2|1500 land with convert|14|mi|km of shoreline along the Au Sable River. The gift was contingent that the area be used as a permanent game preserve, that no part shall ever be sold by the state, and that no camping be allowed in the area for 25 years. The State of Michigan has continued to uphold the no camping restriction within the Mason Tract. [ [http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-30301_30505_31025-66206--,00.html Grayling.] Accessed on May 24 2007.] In accordance with Mr. Mason's wishes, the tract remains free of all development with the exception for a simple log chapelthat was constructed on the property by the Mason Family in 1960. [ [http://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/II_AuSable_River_Watershed_183125_7.pdf Au Sable River Natural River Plan, page 28.] Accessed on May 24 2007.]
American Motors Corporation
* "Who Was Who in America. A component of Who's Who in American History." Volume 3, 1951-1960. Chicago.
* Biography and Genealogy Master Index. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale, 1980- 2006.
* George Mason, "Newsweek" October 18, 1954
* George Mason, Milestones, "Time Magazine", October 18, 1954.
* Changes of the Week: George Romney Succeeds Mason. "Time Magazine", October 25, 1954
* George W. Mason, "American National Biography Online", February 2000 edition.
NAME = Mason, George W.
ALTERNATIVE NAMES =
SHORT DESCRIPTION = automobile industry executive
DATE OF BIRTH =
March 12 1891
PLACE OF BIRTH =
Valley City, North Dakota
DATE OF DEATH =
October 9 1954
PLACE OF DEATH =
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