At the time of his stepping down, Ford was ranked 264th on Forbes' list of top-earning CEOs, at $10,000,000.00 per year.
Ford graduated from the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut in 1975 and went on to graduate from Princeton University in 1979, having majored in history and served as President of the Ivy Club. He played on the Princeton rugby team as well. In 1984 he received an M.S. in management as a Sloan Fellow from the MIT Sloan School of Management.
He joined Ford in 1979 and 1981 held a variety of positions, beginning in product development and on the financial staff, a grooming ground for Future executives. He served several years as a mid-ranking executive in product development. He also briefly headed the Climate Control Division (since divested from the company as part of the Visteon spinoff). At the time of the Ford 2000 reorganization, he was in charge of heavy truck operations.
Ford has been a vegetarian since 1990, and adopted a vegan diet in 2010.
Ford gave up an executive position in heavy truck program management to become chairman of the Finance committee on the Board of Directors, a non-executive corporate governance position. He was elected Chairman of the Board in September 1998, and took office on January 1, 1999. Ford added the title of Chief Executive Officer on October 30, 2001, following the ouster of then-CEO Jacques Nasser. That ouster reflected significant differences in corporate values—Nasser focused on maximizing corporate profits and shareholder value, while Ford was noted for valuing people and tradition. With the retirement of Ford President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Padilla in April 2006, Bill Ford assumed those roles as well. On September 5, 2006, Ford announced that he was stepping down as President and CEO, naming former Boeing senior executive Alan Mulally as his replacement. Ford continues as the company's Executive Chairman.
Speaking at conference in November 2000 in London Ford suggested that the company may one day offer a Service where it owns vehicles and makes them available to people when they need access to them.
Market competition, health care and raw material costs, led Ford to announce a second restructuring for its North American operations in four years. Ford's restructuring plan, dubbed "The Way Forward", reversed a $1.6 billion loss during 2009 in its North American operations. The company returned to profitability in 2010.
Bill Ford has been a vocal advocate for improvements to be made in all modes of global transportation. Bill Ford has stated that governments and private industry will need to rethink transportation infrastructure and Technology as the global population expands and the existing infrastructure is unable to keep pace. In January 2010, Bill Ford announced the launch of a strategic investment firm, Fontinalis Partners, with the purpose of investing in innovative companies developing next-generation mobility solutions. Bill Ford co-founded the firm with Ralph Booth (Chairman and CEO of Booth American Company and successful media and Telecom investor), Mark Schulz (former head of Ford Motor Company’s international operations), Chris Cheever, and Chris Thomas.
Ford has expanded its lineup of flexible-fuel vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles, and dual-fuel vehicles. Flexible fuel vehicles can operate on a range of fuel mixtures – such as ethanol-gasoline blends ranging from pure gasoline to E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline). Alternative fuel vehicles operate on non-petroleum fuels, such as methanol, compressed natural gas (CNG), propane, and hydrogen. Dual fuel vehicles generally have two fuel tanks – one for compressed natural gas or propane, and another for regular gasoline – with a selector switch to choose between them. Vehicles using these fueling alternatives are currently in test fleets, for Example as taxis and shuttle buses, and some are or will soon be available for sale to the public. Ford is now committed to sell 250,000 alternative and flexible fuel vehicles – the majority of which will be designed to operate on ethanol-gasoline blends such as E85 – in 2006.