Pack Automotive Museum

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FORD MOTOR COMPANY

Founded and launched by the famous Henry Ford in a converted factory in Dearborn, MI in 1902, the eventual Ford Motor Company was actually funded by a group of investors, notably the Dodge brothers, Horace and John.  They were producing parts for Ford for quite a few years before deciding to go head-to-head with Ford and produce their own vehicle with more features at a lesser price.  Henry was 40 when he took the plunge into the automobile industry and he and his eventual heirs kept the company family controlled for almost 100 years.
During the early years the company produced a number of vehicles badged as “Models” such as the Model A, Model K (Ford’s first 6 cylinder vehicle which sold for about $2,800) and Model S (a right-hand drive car).   For reference purposes, about the same time the Oldsmobile Runabout was $650, the Colt Runabout was priced at $1,500, the Enger sold for $2,000 and the Western Gale Model A sold for as low as $250.
In 1907 Ford introduced the Model T.  The Model T (being produced at the rate of only a few a day) was built at Ford’s first actual manufacturing plant (not converted from anything, rather, from the ground up) using Henry Ford’s thoughts and processes and sales were so successful that by 1911 the company had moved to even larger facilities in Highland Park, MI. Still, cars were all produced in a static environment with between 2 to 4 men working on a vehicle at a time and annual production was around 69,000 units.  By 1912 the Model T was being replicated at the rate of 170,000 annually.
In 1913 Ford was the first auto manufacturer to introduce the moving assembly line that could take build time of any one vehicle from 12.5 hours down to just 2 hours and forty minutes.  Simple math would tell you that with the line Ford could produce 5 vehicles using the new moving line for the same amount of time it took using the older static method and producing only 1.  As a result, production was boosted annually to almost 203,000 units and by 1920 the line was proficient enough to have built one-million vehicles a year.
The innovations of Ford were hard on workers and worker turnover was excessive even though their productivity actually reduced labor demands.  In January of 1914 Henry Ford resolved the turnover problem by doubling their pay to $5 a day, cutting shifts from 9 hours to 8 hours a day and, created the 5-day work-week.  Employee turnover plunged, productivity soared and the cost per vehicle plummeted.  The assembly line truly transformed the auto industry.  Of the over 200 car companies in business in 1920, just 17 were still in business by 1940.
In 1922, Ford (a lesser expensive vehicle in the marketplace) expanded its reach into the luxury auto market by purchasing the Lincoln Motor Company and then the Mercury division was established in 1938 to serve the mid-price market.
President Franklin Roosevelt often referred to Detroit (the auto makers specifically) as the “Arsenal of Democracy” and Ford played a vital role in that democracy effort.  With Europe under siege, the War Department handed production of the Bantam Jeep over to Ford.  When Consolidated Aircraft could build only one  B-24 Liberator a day, Ford showed how they could build one every hour.  Henry’s son (Edsel) had been running the company by now and Henry Ford was seemingly way in the background from a day-to-day perspective.  Unfortunately the stress of war production took a toll on Edsel and in 1943 he passed away reversing control of the company back into Henry’s hands.  Mass production of B-24’s began in 1943 and many pilots slept on cots at the plant waiting for takeoff as the B-24’s came off the line.
By the 1950’s Ford introduced the Thunderbird, the Edsel (that’s another story) and by the 60’s had designed the world’s best-selling car ever, the Ford Mustang which still continues to hold a “cult” culture in the auto world today.  In the early 90's Ford began to look towards luxury lines and econome brands to add to thier portfolio so as to cater to the complete cross-section of the buying public. Eventually Ford owned controlling interest of Mazda as well as outright ownership of Aston Martin, Jaguar, Range Rover/Land Rover and, Volvo. The corporate leader in truck sales world-wide, Ford Motor Company has continued to look to the future and make change now to guarantee success later. In 2006, (two full years before the global economic crisis of 2008) Ford mortgaged most all of its assets including factories, equipment, intellectual properties (patents and trademarks) as well as real properties and sold most of the foreign and high-line divisions above-mentioned in order to generate $23.4 billion in cash.  As result, in 2008/2009 when the “hammer came down on the auto industry” Ford Motor Company graciously and proudly said no thank you to being a part of a government sponsored “bailout”.

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