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Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company logo

The Ford Motor Company (sometimes nicknamed Ford's or FoMoCo) is an automobile maker founded by Henry Ford in Highland Park, Michigan, and incorporated on June 16, 1903.

Ford radically reformed the methods for large-scale manufacturing of cars, and large-scale management of an industrial workforce. Ford implemented the ideas of Eli Whitney, who developed the first assembly line using interchangeable parts, which made it possible to put the cars together at a much lower cost and with greater reliability and repeatability.

The headquarters of Ford Motor Company is located in Dearborn, Michigan.

2002 Ford Fiesta in the UK
2002 Ford Fiesta in the UK


Ford was launched from a converted wagon factory, with $28,000 cash from 12 investors. During its early years, the company produced just a few cars a day at the Ford factory on Mack Avenue in Detroit. Groups of two or three men worked on each car from components made to order by other companies.

In 1908, the Ford company released the Ford Model T. The first Model T's were built at the Highland Park Ford Plant. The company was forced to move to a larger factory to keep up with the demand for the Model T, and by 1913 had developed all of the basic techniques of the assembly line and mass production. Ford introduced the world's first moving assembly line on December 1 that year, which reduced chassis assembly time from 12 1/2 hours in October to 2 hours, 40 minutes. However these innovations were not popular, and in order to stop the staff deserting the monotonous jobs, on January 5, 1914, Ford took the radical step of doubling pay to $5 a day, and cut shifts from 9 hours to 8 - moves that were not popular with rival companies.

By the end of 1913, Ford was producing 50% of all cars in the United States, and by 1918 half of all cars in the country were Model Ts. Referring to the Model T, Henry Ford is reported to have said that "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.

On January 1, 1919, Edsel Ford succeeded his father as head of the company, although Henry Ford still kept a hand in management. The Ford company lost market share during the 1920s due to the rise of consumer credit. The company's goal was to produce an inexpensive automobile that any worker could afford. To keep prices low, Ford (at the behest of its owner, Henry Ford) offered few features. General Motors and other competitors began offering automobiles in more colors, with more features and luxuries. They also extended credit so consumers could buy these more expensive automobiles. Ford resisted following suit, insisting that such credit would hurt the consumer and the economy. Due to market constraints, however, the company finally gave in and followed its competitors' lead when on December 2, 1927 Ford unveiled the redesigned Ford Model A and retired the Model T.

1970 Ford Cortina Mark 2
1970 Ford Cortina Mark 2

The Great Depression

Ford maintained production for nearly two years after the start of the Great Depression, however the slump in sales led to Ford closing the Model A assembly line on August 1, 1931, with the loss of 60,000 jobs. The following year, five Ford workers were killed as unemployed workers marched to demand jobs. Henry Ford fortified his home and the factory. Only eight of 35 US plants were in production in 1933 and was 1939 when sales returned to their 1929 levels.

World War II

Ford's plants in Germany and Vichy France, Fordwerke , produced many of the cars and trucks used by the Nazis in World War II. The Ford Motor Company has denied allegations that they profited by the use of forced labor to produce tanks for the Nazis during the war, saying that Ford had lost control of the German division by that point in the war and was not responsible for its activities. (See: Strategic bombing survey (Europe))

Post War Developments

Ford became a publicly traded corporation in 1955; however, the Ford family still maintains a controlling interest in the company.

Brands & Marques

Today, Ford Motor Company manufactures automobiles under the highly-recognized Lincoln and Mercury brand names. In 1958, Ford introduced a new marque, the Edsel, but poor sales lead to its discontinuation in 1960. Later, in 1986, the Merkur brand was released, but met a similar fate in 1988.

Ford has major manufacturing operations in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and several other countries, including South Africa, where following divestment during apartheid, it once again has a wholly-owned subsidiary. It also has a joint venture with Mahindra in India.

Ford also has a cooperative agreement with GAZ. In recent years Ford has acquired Aston Martin, Jaguar, Volvo Cars and Land Rover, as well as a controlling share of Mazda, with which it operates an American joint venture plant called Auto Alliance. It has spun off its parts division under the name Visteon . Its prestige brands, with the exception of Lincoln, are managed through its Premier Automotive Group.

Ford's non-manufacturing operations include organizations in the financial services (Ford Credit ) and automobile rental (Hertz) businesses.

Global Markets

Initially, Ford models sold outside the US were essentially versions of those sold on the home market, but later on there were vast differences between those sold in the US and those sold in Europe. The divergence in product tastes is such that European models like the Ford Mondeo have fared poorly in the US, while US models such as the Ford Taurus have fared poorly in Japan and Australia, even produced in right hand drive. The small European model Ka, a hit in its home market, did not catch on in Japan, as it was not available as an automatic. The Mondeo was dropped by Ford Australia, because the segment of the market in which it competes had been in steady decline, with buyers preferring the larger local model, the Falcon.


Initially, Ford in Germany and the United Kingdom built different models from one another until the late 1960s, with the Ford Escort and then the Ford Capri being common to both companies. Later on, the Ford Taunus and Ford Cortina became identical, produced in left hand drive and right hand drive respectively. Rationalisation of model ranges meant that production of many models in the UK switched to elsewhere in Europe, including Belgium and Spain as well as Germany. The Ford Sierra replaced the Taunus and Cortina in 1982, drawing criticism for its radical aerodynamic styling. Many British critics said that the car looked like a jellymould.

Increasingly, Ford Motor Company has looked to Ford of Europe for its 'world cars', such as the Mondeo, Focus, and Fiesta, although sales of European-sourced Fords in the US have been disappointing, and in Asia, models from Europe are not as competitively priced as Japanese-built rivals, nor are they perceived as reliable.

In 2001, Ford ended car production in the UK, although it owns the Jaguar, and Land Rover car plants.

Asia Pacific

1973 Australian Ford XB Falcon GT 351
1973 Australian Ford XB Falcon GT 351

In Australia and New Zealand, the Ford Falcon is the most popular family car, being considerably larger than the Mondeo sold in Europe. Originally the Falcon was based on a US Ford of that name, but is now vastly different, still having rear wheel drive, like its General Motors rival, the Holden Commodore.

Ford's presence in Asia has traditionally been much smaller, but with the acquisition of a stake in Japanese manufacturer Mazda, in 1979, Ford began selling Mazda's Familia and Capella (also known as the 323 and 626) as the Ford Laser and Telstar. The Laser was one of the most successful models sold by Ford in Australia, and, ironically, outsold the Mazda 323. The Laser was also built in Mexico and sold in the US as the Mercury Tracer, while the 1989 US Ford Escort was based on the Laser/Mazda 323. The smaller Mazda 121 was also sold in the US and Asia as a Ford Festiva.

Through its relationship with Mazda, Ford also acquired a stake in South Korean manufacturer Kia, which later built the Ford Aspire for export to the US, but later sold the company to Hyundai. Ironically, Hyundai also manufactured the Ford Cortina until the 1980s. Ford also has a joint venture with Lio Ho in Taiwan, which assembles Ford models locally since the 1970s.

South America

In South America, Ford has had to face protectionist government measures in each country, with the result that it built different models in different countries, with no rationalisation or economies of scale. In some cases, it based its models on those of other manufacturers whose plants it had taken over. For example, the Corcel and Del Rey in Brazil were originally based on Renaults. In the 1980s, Ford merged its operations in Brazil and Argentina with those Volkswagen to form a company called Autolatina, with which it shared models.

Autolatina was dissolved in the 1990s, and with the advent of Mercosur, the regional common market, Ford was able to rationalise its product line-ups in those countries. Consequently, the Ford Fiesta is only built in Brazil, and the Ford Focus only built in Argentina, with each plant exporting in large volumes to the neighbouring country. Models like the Ford Mondeo from Europe could now be imported completely built up. Ford in Brazil produces a pick-up version of the Fiesta, which is also produced in South Africa, in right hand drive as the Ford Bantam.

Africa and Middle East

In Africa and the Middle East, Ford's market presence has traditionally been strongest in South Africa and neighbouring countries, with only trucks being sold elsewhere on the continent. Ford in South Africa traditionally sourced its models from the UK and Australia, with local versions of the Ford Cortina including the XR6, with a 3.0 V6 engine, and a Cortina 'bakkie' or pick-up, which was exported to the UK. In the mid-1980s Ford merged with a rival company, owned by Anglo American , to form the South African Motor Corporation (Samcor).

Following international condemnation of apartheid, Ford divested from South Africa in 1988, and sold its stake in Samcor, although it licensed the use of its brand name to the company. Samcor began to assemble Mazdas as well, which affected its product line-up, which saw the European Fords like the Escort and Sierra replaced by the Mazda-based Laser and Telstar. Ford bought a 45 per cent stake in Samcor following the demise of apartheid in 1994, and this later became, once again, a wholly owned subsidiary, the Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa. Ford now sells a local sedan version of the Fiesta (also built in India and Mexico), and the Focus and Mondeo Europe. The Falcon model from Australia was also sold in South Africa, but was dropped in 2003.

Ford's market presence in the Middle East has traditionally been even smaller, partly due to the Arab boycott of companies dealing with Israel, although US Fords are now sold in Saudi Arabia.

A new direction for the new century

Under the leadership of the current president, William C. Ford Jr., the company (and Mr. Ford personally) stunned the industry and pleased environmentalists with an announcement of a planned 25 percent improvement in the average milage of its light truck fleet - including its popular Sport Utility Vehicles - to be completed by the 2005 calendar year. Mr. Ford was also one of the first top industry executives to make regular use of an electric vehicle, a Ford Ranger EV, while the company contracted with the U. S. Postal Service for delivery of a large number of electric postal vans based on the Ranger EV platform. Many Ford vehicles now sport an emblem - a green leaf springing from a curving road-like twig, symbolic of the new "green" commitment to preserve the environment and reduce resource consumption while delivering safe, economical, and effective products to the motoring public.

Notable Employees, Past and Present

  • Malcolm X (assembly line worker)
  • Lee Iacocca (assembly line engineer and eventually Ford president)
  • Robert McNamara (finance executive and eventually Ford president)
  • William C. Ford Jr. (Chairman and CEO, great grandson of Henry Ford)


Ford Motor Company. 2003 Annual Report. Rochester, New York:St Ives Inc Case-Hoyt. [1]

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Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45