George W. Kennedy

Distinguished Service Citation Award 1978

He was born in Cecil County, Maryland, in 1890, had his schooling in Maryland, Wharton School of Finance and University of Pennsylvania. An accounting major during World War I he was stationed in Detroit as head of Cost Accounting with the Ordnance Department. It was here he met john Kelsey who offered him a position with Kelsey Wheel Company in 1919. In 1927, upon the death of Kelsey, he was elected President and then Chief Executive Officer, a position he held until his retirement in 1973.

His contributions to the automobile industry stemmed from his unique and valued relationship with most of the real pioneers. Through Kennedy’s Counsel and working relationship with these men he was able to provide major technical innovations in keeping with the needs of industry change.

He was perceptive and masterful in his ability to anticipate the technical requirements to improve American automobiles. His dedication to new technologies served up products and manufacturing processes that revolutionized automobile design and engineering of chassis components such as wheels, disc brake calipers, rotors, combination brake valves, power boosters and skid control systems.

Kennedy was an early advocate of disc brakes for American cars. There was an initial problem of adapting disc brakes to heavy American automobiles. Under his direction, the project was a success and the vented unicast gray iron rotor has been standard since the middle 1960’s. This one effort has saved the industry and consumers millions of dollars and accelerated the acceptance of disc brakes on American cars.

Most major advancements in the design and manufacturing of automotive wheels since the day of wooden spoke wheels were developed at Kelsey-Hays under Kennedy’s direction; exclusive method for mass production of wire wheels; development of first all steel automobile wheel; first use of fully automatic riveting rims and discs of wheels; introduction of spot-weld process for wheel assembly – thus bringing the first major breakthrough of high volume wheel manufacturing; introduction of the Tru-Centric process for making rounder wheels with low run-out for smoother rides.

Before weight and energy was a motivating force in the industry, George Kennedy urged his research group to explore the possibilities of a fabricated aluminum wheel and a plastic wheel. As a result, Kelsey-Hayes became the first company in the world to announce production plans for 1979 cars using the revolutionary aluminum wheel made from sheet or strip material. This wheel saved from 45% to 50% the weight of a comparable steel wheel.

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