Knudsen, William S.

Knudsen, William S. (b. Signius Wilhelm Paul Knudsen)

(1879–1948) industrialist, government official; born in Copenhagen, Denmark. Emigrating to America at age 21, he mastered bicycle and auto parts production, and when Ford purchased his auto-parts firm, he was soon running assembly line production for Ford (1913–20). Hired by Ford's archrival Chevrolet in 1922, he was outselling Ford by 1927 and became president of General Motors in 1937. He resigned from General Motors in 1940 to serve first on the National Defense Advisory Commission and then with the Office of Production Management, expediting war-related production. From 1942–45 he accepted an army commission as lieutenant general to supervise production for the War Department and Army Air Force. After the war he worked with the Hupp Corporation.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.