General Motors Company and Ford Motor Company have a long, contentious history between them, a rivalry called “the hundred-year” war by some. Founded only 72 miles and five years apart in the Detroit area, the two have battled over profits, market-share, and the American image for over a century.
It is this inextricably linked history that GM is honoring with their recent charitable maneuver. General Motors Co. is donating $5 million to The Henry Ford, a museum complex in Dearborn, Michigan founded by its namesake to commemorate not only his own business and industry, but his collection of American history as well.
GM’s donation is earmarked to sponsor the museum’s rotating exhibit, a gallery devoted to promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The exhibit will now be known as “The Gallery” by General Motors. Henry Ford might roll over a bit in his grave at the idea, but his great-grandson, Edsel Ford II, was part of the decision-making process. It began with a 2013 lunch between him and Mark Reuss, the head of global product development for GM. The Henry Ford, as an independent nonprofit, is not officially affiliated with Ford Motor Co., and so it was not a conflict of interest when Reuss joined its board of trustees in 2016.
“We know that Henry Ford and Ford Motor Co. have always been and will always be inextricably linked. There’s no getting around that,” Reuss said. “But the museum is a celebration of American innovation, particularly in the transportation space, and you can’t tell that story without General Motors and Ford together.”
The first exhibit to be shown in the GM-sponsored gallery is going to be “The Science Behind Pixar.” The conjoined history of Disney and Pixar is as American as these auto companies, and a stellar example of the histories of innovation that the museum wants to feature.