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Ford Motor Company
Automobile maker Ford Motor Company (sometimes nicknamed Fords or FoMoCo)
was founded by Henry Ford in Highland Park, Michigan, and incoporated 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 current home of Ford Motor Company is in Dearborn, Michigan.
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 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. However these innovations were not popular, and in order
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 America, 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.
The Great Depression
Ford maintained production for nearly two years after the start of the Great
Depression, however the slump in sales lead to Ford closing the Model A
assembly line on August 1, 1931, with the loss of 60,000 jobs. The following
year, 5 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 it was 1939 before 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.
The Ford company also manufactures automobiles under the Lincoln and Mercury
marques. Its attempt in the late 1950s to introduce a new marque, the Edsel,
was a major failure.
Ford has for years had major manufacturing operations in Great Britain,
Germany, Brazil, Australia and several other countries.
Ford also has a cooperative agreement with GAZ. In recent years Ford has
acquired Aston Martin, Jaguar, Volvo and Land Rover, as well as a large
share of Mazda. It has spun off its parts division under the name Visteon.