The Ford Motor Company is the fifth largest automobile manufacturer in the world. The company had been in the business since they incorporated on June 16, 1903. They are the largest family controlled business in the world. Any history of the Ford Motor Company really starts before 1903, with the history of Henry Ford, the man the company was named for.
Henry Ford, the brains behind the Ford Motor Company, built his first car in 1896. He then sold it to get the money to build his second. He continued this process for a number of years, until a group of investors enticed him to start a company. Together with some others, he formed the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899. The name was changed to the Henry Ford Company in 1901. But this start did not go well for Henry Ford. He left the company in 1902 and took his name with him. The name of this company was changed to the Cadillac Motor Car Company.
He immediately started another company with a friend, but quickly ran into money shortages. They incorporated the Ford Motor Company on June 16, 1903 with 12 investors, as a move to raise funds. Henry Ford himself, was not president at first, but become so in 1906 when John S Gray, the first president of the company, died.
Ford, from the beginning, developed his car, but relied on others to make all the parts. His company would then put it together and sell it. At first the cars were assembled by a team standing around the chassis with piles of parts, building the car. In 1913, he introduced the assembly line to take the chassis along in front of the workers while they added their parts.
Henry Ford also dealt with labor problems by raising wages so his trained workers would stay at the company. By giving his workers higher wages and more benefits, he found he was actually able to save money.
At first, the Ford Motor Company cars were priced for the middle and upper class, but Ford was quickly able to lower his prices with quick assembly and highly trained work force. By 1920, he was making over on million cars a year.
Ford used all possible techniques to speed production. His quote, “Any customer can have a car painted any color they want as long as it is black”, arose from the fact that the other colors of paint took to long to dry. Before the assembly line, the cars were produced in a variety of colors, none of them black. But after, black was the quickest drying, so all cars were produced in black. It was not until 1926 that other colors were used on the Model T.
Henry Ford was personally a pacifist, and attempted to stop World War I by participating in peace missions, but when WWI broke out, quickly adapted his car models to war needs.
After World War I, the Ford Motor Company suffered and started to lose market share. Other companies were listening to the market and trying to give the consumer different choices in cars. Henry Ford resisted at first, trying to impose his views on the consumer. However, finally he started listening and started offering choices and financing.
He also experienced with his workers. At the beginning, he paid them more than other manufacturers, in order to keep trained assemblers. This made other companies mad at him. But later, he resisted attempts for unions and collective bargaining to take place in his plants. The Ford compnay even went to far as to use violence to keep the unions out.
By the late 1930s, the Ford Motor Company had factories in Germany. Because he was worried about the nationalization of his plants there, Ford worked closely with the Nazi government and even received an award from them in 1938. In 1939, the Nazi government seized control of the Ford plants, but not ownership. The buildup of the Nazi forces benefited greatly from the Ford relationship. But Ford was troubled, and did not want to benefit from a war. When offered a contract to build engines for the Allies in 1940, he turned it down.
After the Pearl Harbor attack in December of 1941, Ford did all he could to help, turning his manufacturing genius to help the country. Under his guidance he managed to enable Consolidated Aircraft to go from building one B-24 a day to building one an hour.
His son, Edsel Ford had taken over the office of president of Ford Motor Company in 1919, with his father constantly helping. However, Edsel Ford died in 1943. Henry Ford wanted to resume as president, but his wife and daughter-in-law intervened, and Henry Ford II became president in 1945.
In 1957, Ford managed to crawl back to the top, and was the best selling brand.
Throughout the following years until present, the Ford Motor Company would turn out some of the best known cars and trucks in the world. From the luxury car, the Lincoln Continental, to affordable cars like the Escort and the Pinto. From mistakes like the Edsel, to homeruns like the Mustang.
In recent years, as the economy has worsened, all of the domestic car companies, Ford included, were caught by surprise. They were selling a lineup of cars that suddenly were not selling. That, together with high labor and benefits costs, threatened to bankrupt them. Chrysler and General Motors received government loans to help them, but Ford is attempting to turn things around in their company by themselves. They had their worst loss in one year in 2008, but have declared a profit in 2009 and 2010.
Time will tell, but hopefully this automotive company leader can turn things around and channel some of the innovation that Henry Ford brought to the industry when he started Ford Motor Company. A review of the history of the Ford Motor Company certainly shows the highs and the lows that a company can go through. A history of Henry Ford also shows a man that is willing to innovate, and a man trying to follow his own moral code.