George Walter Mason
Mason, CEO, Nash-Kelvinator during the 1940s
) was an American industrialist.
During his career Mason served as the Chairman and CEO of the
Chairman and CEO of the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation
(1937-1954), and Chairman and CEO of American Motors Corporation
George W. Mason was born in Valley City,
North Dakota. Mason received his education at the University of
Michigan where 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. Chrysler
, which Chrysler had
reorganized and would use to develop Chrysler
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 Frigidaire
product line in home refrigeration
sales despite the effects of the Great
When Charles Nash
, founder of
began 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
owned Norge Appliance
, and Chrysler
operated its own air conditioning
. Nash and Mason came to terms and the deal
announced in November 1936. The two firms merged to form Nash-Kelvinator Corporation
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
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
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 compact car
- 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
- Nash-Healey – the first American
sports car after the Great
Depression and developed with partners in Great Britain and
– a subcompact car built in cooperation with Great Britain’s Austin Motors.
However, General Motors and Ford
were 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. 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. General Motors responded by doing the
same. With the market flooded by inexpensive cars, Studebaker
, Kaiser Motors
, and Nash were all unable to
sell vehicles at loss-leader prices to keep up with Ford and
Legacy with AMC
Mason eventually banded together Nash and the Hudson Motor Car Company
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.
months of the closure of the deal, George Mason died at age 63 of
acute pancreatitis and pneumonia in 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
or any automakers. According to Mason's obituary in
, had AMC and
Studebaker-Packard joined, it would have resulted in the second
largest automaker in the world, behind General Motors.
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 Resources
consisting of land with of
shoreline along the Au Sable
. 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
Michigan DNR has continued to uphold the no camping restriction
within the Mason tract. In accordance with Mason's wishes, the
tract remains free of all development with the exception for a
simple log chapel
that was constructed on the
property by the Mason family in 1960.
- 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.
-  Farrell, J. and Farrell, C. (2005) "Ford's
Stylerama", Hemmings Classic Car, November 1.
- Mays, J. (1998) "When AMC's George Romney reined in the
dinosaurs", Old Cars, October 15. p. 6.
- 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.
-  "Milestones", Time Magazine, October 18,
1954. Accessed on May 24, 2007.
- Grayling. Accessed on May 24 2007.
- Au Sable River Natural River Plan, page 28.
Accessed on May 24