Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is an American multinational corporation and the world's third largest automaker based on vehicle sales in 2005. Based in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Metro
Detroit, the automaker was founded by Henry Ford and incorporated in 1903. Ford now encompasses many global brands, including Lincoln and Mercury of the US, Jaguar, Aston Martin and
Land Rover of Great Britain, and Volvo of Sweden. Ford also owns a one-third controlling interest in Mazda.
Ford has also been one of the world's ten largest corporations by revenue and in 1999 ranked as one of the world's most profitable corporations. However, in recent years, it has not fared
as well and has not gained market share in North America since 1995.
Ford introduced methods for large-scale manufacturing of cars and large-scale management of an industrial workforce, especially elaborately engineered manufacturing sequences typified
by moving assembly lines. Henry Ford's combination of highly efficient factories, highly paid workers, and low prices revolutionized manufacturing and came to be known around the world
as Fordism by 1914.
Ford was launched from a converted wagon factory in 1903 with $28,000 in cash from twelve investors. During its early years, the company produced just a few Model T's a day at its
factory on Mack Avenue in Detroit. Groups of two or three men worked on each car from components made to order by other companies. Henry Ford was 40 years old when he founded the
Ford Motor Company, which would go on to become one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world, as well as being one of the few to survive the Great Depression. The
largest family-controlled company in the world, the Ford Motor Company has been in continuous family control for over 100 years.
In 1908, the Ford Company released the Ford Model T. The first Model T's were built at the Piquette Manufacturing Plant. The company moved production to the much larger Highland Park
Plant to keep up with the demand for the Model T. By 1913, the company had developed all of the basic techniques of the assembly line and mass production. Ford introduced the world's first
moving assembly line that year, which reduced chassis assembly time from 12½ hours in October to 2 hours, 40 minutes. However, these innovations were not popular, and turnover of
workers was very high. Turnover meant delays and extra costs of training, and use of slow workers. In January 1914, Ford solved the employee turnover problem by doubling pay to $5 a
day, cutting shifts from nine hours to an eight hour day for a 5 day work week, and instituting hiring practices that identified the best workers. Thus, it pioneered the minimum wage and the
40 hour work week in the United States, before the government enacted it. Thus, Henry Ford became an American legend.
Productivity soared and employee turnover plunged, and the cost per vehicle plummeted. Ford cut prices again and again and invented the system of franchised dealers who were loyal to his
brand name. Wall Street had disagreed with Ford's generous labor practices when he began paying workers enough to buy the products they made.
By the end of 1913, Ford was producing 50 percent of all cars in the United States, and by 1918 half of all cars in the country were Model Ts. Henry Ford is reported to have said, "Any
customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black." This was because black paint was quickest to dry; earlier models had been available in a variety of colors...
In 1915, Henry Ford went on a peace mission to Europe aboard a ship, joining other pacifists in efforts to stop World War I. This led to an increase in his personal popularity. Ford would
subsequently go on to support the war effort with the Model T becoming the underpinnings for allied military vehicles.
The Ford oval trademark was first introduced in 1907. The 1928 Model A was the first vehicle to sport an early version of the Ford script in the oval badge. The dark blue background of the
oval is known to designers as Pantone 294C, the same color used in Finland's flag. The Ford script is credited to Childe Harold Wills, Ford's first chief engineer and designer. He created a
script in 1903 based on the one he used for his business cards. Today, the oval has evolved into a perfect oval with a width-to-height ratio of 8:3. The current Centennial Oval was
introduced on June 17, 2003 as part of the 100th anniversary of Ford Motor Company.
Post World War I developments
In 1919, Edsel Ford succeeded his father as president of the company, although Henry Ford still kept a hand in management. Although prices were kept low through highly efficient
engineering, the company used an old-fashioned personalized management system, and neglected consumer demand for upscale vehicles. It steadily lost market share to GM and Chrysler,
as these and other domestic and foreign competitors began offering fresher automobiles with more innovative features and luxury options. GM had a range of models from relatively cheap to
luxury, tapping all price points in the spectrum, while less wealthy people purchased used Model Ts. The competitors also opened up new markets by extending credit for purchases, so
consumers could buy these expensive automobiles with monthly payments. Ford initially resisted that approach, insisting that such debts would ultimately hurt the consumer and the general
economy. Ford eventually relented and started offering the same terms in December 1927, when Ford unveiled the redesigned Model A, and retired the Model T after producing 15 million of
In 1925, Ford expanded its reach into the luxury auto market through its acquisition of the Lincoln Motor Company, named for Abraham Lincoln whom Henry Ford admired, and the Mercury
division was established in the 1930s to serve the mid-price auto market.
Henry Ford would go on to acquire Abraham Lincoln's chair from the owners of the Ford Theater in Washington, D.C. Abraham Lincoln's chair would be placed beside John F. Kennedy's
Lincoln limousine in the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village in Dearborn, known today as The Henry Ford. John F. Kennedy's Lincoln Limousine was leased to the White House by Ford.
President Franklin Roosevelt referred to Detroit as the "Arsenal of Democracy." The Ford Motor Company played a pivotal role in the allied victory during World War II. As a pacifist,
Henry Ford had expressed that war was a waste of time, Ford did not want to profit from it. Henry Ford was concerned that the Nazis might nationalize his factories in Germany. Those were
tense times for American companies doing business in Europe. In the spring of 1939, the Nazis assumed day to day control of Ford factories in Germany. With Europe under siege, Henry
Ford's genius would be turned to mass production for the war effort. Specifically, the B-24 Liberator Bomber, still the most produced allied bomber in history, quickly shifted the balance of
power in favor of the allies. The aviation industry could produce one Consolidated Aircraft B-24 Bomber a day at an aircraft plant. Ford would show the world how to produce one B-24 an
hour at a peak of 600 per month in 24 hour shifts. Ford's Willow Run factory broke ground in the April of 1941. At the time, it was the largest assembly line in the world, with over 3.5
million sq. ft. Edsel Ford, under severe stress, died in the Spring of 1943 prompting his grieving father Henry Ford to assume day-to-day control of the Ford Motor Company. Mass production
of the B-24 began by August of 1943. Many pilots slept on cots waiting for takeoff as the B-24 rolled off the assembly line at Ford's Willow Run facility.
During The Great Depression, Ford's wages may have seemed great to his employees at first, but the rules enforced at the factory were harsh and strict. Rules such as not being allowed to
talk were put into place, and dance lessons for the employees were mandatory.
Post World War II developments
At the behest of Edsel Ford's widow Eleanor, Henry Ford would make his grandson, Henry Ford II, President of Ford Motor Company.
Henry Ford II served as President from 1945-1960, and as Chairman and CEO from 1960-1980. "Hank the Deuce" led Ford to become a publicly traded corporation in 1956. However,
the Ford family maintains about 40 percent controlling interest in the company, through a series of Class B preferred stocks.
In 1947, Henry Ford died. He had never had the company fully audited, and did not know the actual worth of the company he had founded. According to A&E Biography, an estimated 7
million people mourned his death.
In 1946 Robert McNamara joined Ford Motor Company as manager of planning and financial analysis. He advanced rapidly through a series of top-level management positions to the
presidency of Ford on 9 November 1960, one day after John F. Kennedy's election. The first company head selected outside the Ford family, McNamara had gained the favor of Henry Ford II,
and had aided in Ford's expansion and success in the postwar period. Less than five weeks after becoming president at Ford, he accepted Kennedy's invitation to join his cabinet, as
Secretary of Defense.
In the 1950s, Ford introduced the iconic Thunderbird in 1955 and the Edsel brand automobile line in 1958. Edsel was cancelled after less than 27 months in the marketplace in November
1960. The corporation bounced back from the failure of the Edsel by introducing its compact Ford Falcon in 1960 and the Mustang in 1964. By 1967, Ford of Europe was established.
Lee Iacocca was involved with the design of several successful Ford automobiles, most notably the Ford Mustang. He was also the "moving force," as one court put it, behind the notorious
Ford Pinto. He promoted other ideas which did not reach the marketplace as Ford products. Eventually, he became the president of the Ford Motor Company, but he clashed with Henry Ford
II and ultimately, in 1978, he was famously fired by Henry II, despite Ford posting a $2.2 billion dollar profit for the year.
Harold Poling served as Chairman and CEO from 1990-1993. Alex Trotman was Chairman and CEO from 1993-1998, and Jacques Nasser served at the helm from 1999-2001. Henry Ford's
great-grandson, William Clay Ford Jr., is the company's current Chairman of the Board and was CEO until September 5, 2006, when he named Alan Mulally from Boeing as his successor. As
of 2006, the Ford family owns about 5 percent of Ford's shares and controls about 40 percent of the voting power through a separate class of stock.
The Ford Motor Company is typically listed among the top two corporations for its philanthropy in cash-giving. The Ford family is very prominent in Michigan and the United States.
Overall the Ford Motor Company controls the following car marquees:
* Aston Martin
* Daimler (as Jaguar division)
* Lagonda (as Aston Martin division)
* Lanchester (as Jaguar/Daimler division)
* Land Rover
* Rover (marquee name only)