The CAR Top 10: car bosses fired from their own companies

Published: 16 October 2015

► You found the company...
► Your name's above the door...
► ...and then they fire you

Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me! It seems you're never safe from backstabbers, even if you own the place.

1) Andre Citroen

Andre Citroen

After the success of his double-helical gears, the canny Citroen built his firm into the world’s fourth largest carmaker in little over a decade. His impact on French mobility was immeasurable. Sadly, so was were his gambling debts, partly accrued against company finances. He was summarily fired.

2) Charles Morgan

Charles Morgan

There’s been a member of the Morgan family at the head of this irrepressible car company since HFS Morgan founded it in back in 1909. But that changed last year when his grandson and managing director Charles Morgan was surprisingly ousted from the board. Intrigue still continues to swirl around the Malverns like fog.

3) David Buick

David Buick

America’s oldest surviving marque was founded by Scottish-born David Buick. Better at inventing then managing - he only ever built two cars - Buick guzzled money in the early 1900s. He was shown the door by new owner Billy Durant, who used Buick to kick-start his General Motors. Och…

4) Henry Ford

Henry Ford

Things didn’t run smoothly for the world’s most prolific and powerful car manufacturer. The man behind the $5 work day, assembly line production and mobility for millions lost daily control of his company during the WWII, wrested it back and then lost it after being seen off by his grandson.

5) Kiichiro Toyoda

Kiichiro Toyoda

Sakichi Toyoda may have kick-started Japan’s industrial revolution, but in 1935 it was son Kiichiro who riskily steered the Toyota company away from weaving looms and towards car production. The post-war recession saw auto profits flag and sales slump, forcing Toyoda to ‘resign’ in 1950.

6) Louis Renault

Louis Renault

Hedonistic and wealthy, Louis and his brothers dabbled in racing before he turned to full-scale car production in 1909. The company expanded but industrial unrest in the late '30s followed by accusations of Nazi collaboration saw Renault imprisoned. He died in jail and in 1945 De Gaulle sequestered his company. 

7) Trevor Wilkinson

Trevor Wilkinson

The man behind TVR was not the white-knuckled adrenalin junkie you’d expect but a quiet engineer with an apt background in prams and funfair rides. Despite its success and the fanaticism of its fans, TVR in Trev’s hands moved too slowly and he was sidelined before finally leaving in April 1962.

8) Walter Owen Bentley

WO Bentley

His cars were lauded for engineering, pace and reliability, but WO’s financial track record was significantly less successful. After running up huge debts in the late '20s he was bought out by arch-rival Rolls-Royce, who effectively put him out to pasture. WO left in 1935 and immediately joined Lagonda.

9) August Horch

August Horch

Engineering genius Horch was nothing if not persistent. After helping set up Benz, he went solo in 1904 but was ditched by his board when sales nose-dived. Undeterred, he started Horch Automobile Works in 1910 but was sued over the name. So he translated it into Latin to create Audi. Ring a bell?

10) William Morris

Lord Nuffield

Morris – later Lord Nuffield – was arguably the greatest industrialist of his time. He founded Morris Motors, adding Riley and Wolseley, which together with Austin created the British Motor Corporation, forerunner of British Leyland. But despite his philanthropy and ambition, he was booted out as BL chairman in 1954 in favour of Austin’s Lord Leonard. Ouch.

By Ben Whitworth

Contributing editor, sartorial over-achiever, HANS device shirt collars