The Ford Motor Company is as much a symbol of America as baseball and apple pie. If you ask someone who invented the automobile, nine times out of ten, you will get the answer, "Henry Ford." That's not quite true. In fact, the world's first car manufacturers were French.
What Henry Ford did was one step better. He figured out a way to manufacture cars that were affordable and available for the average American. Ford's competitors were building expensive cars for the affluent, luxuries.
In 1903, Henry Ford and several investors started the Ford Motor Company in a converted factory in Detroit, Michigan. Ford's first production was in 1903, the Model A, with an under the floor engine selling for $850. In the first season it sold 1,708 cars. By 1903, the Ford Motor Company was both profitable and successful.
Ford initially produced just a few cars a day with groups of two or three men working on each car. Wanting to speed up the process, Henry worked on improving the assembly line. He installed the first conveyor belt-based assembly line in his factory. Having revamped the assembly line, Ford made mass production a reality. Now, instead of the worker going to the car, the car came to the worker, transforming the auto industry. Production costs and assembly time both decreased with the new assembly line, making Ford the world's largest car manufacturer, and the Model T reasonably priced, reliable, and efficient.
America was in love with the "Tin Lizzie." The nickname came from fans of a race winning Model T and stuck. The Tin Lizzie was easy to operate, maintain, and handle on rough roads. It immediately became a huge success.
Between the years 1903 and 1916 the Ford Motor Company sold over 700,000 automobiles. In 1912, the Model T sold for $575.00. Sales began to climb. By 1927, over 10 million Model T's were manufactured. Ford led the world in growth and improvement of the assembly line process.
Ford's skill not only made cars more affordable and available, but made life better for his workers. In 1914, the Ford Motor Company hired approximately 3,000 workers at $5.00 per day for an 8 hour day compared to the previous pay of $2.34 per day for a 9 hour day.
Ford Motor Company was one of the few US companies to survive the great depression. In 1929, most of the country was feeling the effect of the depression. But the employees of the Ford Company were still employed and working. Ford refused to cut pay or lay off workers. Ford is one of the largest family controlled companies in the world with over 100 years of family control.
In 1932 Ford announced a new car with a V-8 engine that could reach a speed of 65 mph. It was an immediate hit. In 1941, shortly before the U.S. became involved in World War II, President Roosevelt asked Henry Ford for help in producing vehicles for the U.S. military. Ford began manufacturing jeeps, tanks and planes for the U.S. military. By 1942, Ford was no longer manufacturing civilian cars and was in total military production to support the U.S. war efforts. Production of civilian cars started again in 1945.
With the Company's 50th anniversary coming up, Ford planned on releasing several new cars, including more powerful versions of the Edsel and the new Thunderbird. When the Thunderbird arrived in the showroom, it was a huge success, outselling the popular Chevrolet Corvette.
In the 1960's, Ford released several new cars, and Mercury, a division of Ford Motor Company, released two new cars. At the 1964 World's Fair in New York City, Ford introduced the Mustang to the masses and put it on sell that very day. The Mustang was a very sleek, sexy car in 1964, and is still very popular today. The Ford Motor Company manufactured one million Mustangs within the first two years of production. Ford achieved much in the 1960's, but many believe the Ford Mustang to have been the greatest achievement in its history.