As chairman and chief executive from 1990 to 1994, Poling led the company through a deep recession, when Ford's sales in North America and Europe plunged and losses totaled $9.64 billion in 1991 and 1992. By the time he retired, Ford controlled 25.3% of the U.S. auto market, up from 21% in 1983. It had net income of $2.53 billion in 1993, his final full year.
Poling grew up in Fairfax, Va., and served in the Navy before earning his bachelor's degree at Monmouth College in Illinois and then his master's in business administration at Indiana University.
He worked his way up through the ranks to lead Ford's European operations in the 1970s and became a member of the automaker's board in 1979.
He became president and chief operating officer in 1985. In March 1990, he succeeded Donald E. Petersen as chairman.
Poling, whose nickname matched his hair color, was married to the former Marian Lee in 1957. Besides his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Pamela and Kathryn, and a son, Douglas.
Douglas Poling was one of the former American International Group executives whose bonus payments in 2009, a year after the company was bailed out by the U.S. government, drew protests. The company said he returned his bonus, which was the largest at $6.4 million.