The Legacy of Ford Motor Company
|Topics: Ford Motor Company
March 18, 2009
Ford was founded in 1903 as a joint venture between Henry Ford, John and Horace Dodge (who would later go on to start Dodge) and nine other investors with a combined $28,000 in cash. A converted factory was used to produce the first vehicles and only a few cars a day were produced in the beginning.
By 1908, Henry Ford had realized his dream of producing a vehicle that was priced within reach of the common man. The Model T would go on to become one of the most popular cars in the world. There was such a huge demand for the vehicle that the company opened a new larger factory in Highland Park, MI. Total production of the Model T would exceed 15 million before it was retired in 1927.
It was at this new factory that the idea of a moving assembly line was first introduced. Parts would be delivered to workers at each station and that worker would be responsible for adding one component to the vehicle that would then move on to the next station. This revolutionary new concept reduced assembly time per vehicle subsequently lowering the costs of production. The popularity and affordability of the Model T helped Ford become the largest automobile manufacturer in the world.
During the 1910’s and 1920’s, Ford went to work on developing his latest vision. Along the banks of the Rouge River in Dearborn Michigan, construction began on a industrial complex that could mass produce all the components necessary to completely assemble an automobile, from raw materials all the way through to the finished product. The massive complex included a steel mill, glass factory and an automobile assembly line. Iron ore was brought in from the great lakes and forges and foundries transformed the raw iron ore to finished steel and then into everything needed to produce a vehicle from springs and axles to engine blocks and cylinder heads. By the fall of 1927, all steps in the manufacturing process from refining raw materials to final assembly took place at the massive plant. It was the world’s largest industrial complex at the time and characterized Henry Ford’s original ideas of mass production.
Ford was one of the few automobile companies to survive the great depression and is still one of the largest family controlled companies in the world. As a matter fact, Ford Motor Company has been in continuous family control for over 100 years and two members of the Ford family sit on the board today, William Clay Ford and his son William Clay Ford Jr.
In 2007, Ford fell from the second ranked automaker to third in United States sales for the first time in 56 years. This places them behind General Motors who occupies the second spot and Toyota who is currently number one.
It remains to be seen if Ford Motor Company will survive the worst economic climate since the Great Depression, however if it has retained any of the vision of its founder then surely this greatest of American car manufacturers will find away to endure. From the Model T, to the Mustang through to the newest concept the Ecoboost, Ford has shown that it has the innovation and determination to not just survive but to succeed. The 21st century may well put all of this to the test, however. The landscape has changed for the automobile manufacturer and only time will tell us which ones have what it takes to ride out this economic storm.
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