Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Ford Motor Company

The Ford Motor Company was officially incorporated in 1903, when founder Henry Ford launched his venture in a converted factory on Mack Avenue in Detroit. It was his third attempt at establishing an automotive business. At the time, the company could only produce a few cars a day.

Ford had its breakthrough in 1908 with the introduction of the Model T. It embodied what Henry Ford wanted out of a car: efficiency, reliability, and a reasonable price. Due to high demand for the vehicle, Ford Motor Company commissioned a new factory in Highland Park, Michigan, designed by Albert Kahn. It is here that Ford revolutionized the automobile industry by introducing his first assembly line mass-production model. Individual workers stayed in one place and performed the same task on vehicles that passed in front of them. This implementation gave Ford an edge over its competitors.

In 1914, Ford began offering a $5 a day wage to its factory employees. This vaulted many low-skilled workers into the middle class, allowing them to afford the products that they made, and employee turnover dropped dramatically. During the 1920s, the Ford Motor Company purchased the Lincoln Motor Company and moved much of its production operations to the Ford Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan. By the end of the decade, two out of three cars on the road were a Model T. The Ford Motor Company played a pivotal role in the Allied campaign during World War II. Using the same mass production techniques it introduced to the auto industry, Ford began churning out B-24 Liberator aircraft at the rate of one per hour or approximately 600 every month at Willow Run, helping to spawn Detroit’s nickname, the Arsenal of Democracy.

The 1950s and 1960s saw the introduction of some of Ford’s most iconic vehicles, including the Thunderbird in 1955 and the Mustang in 1964. This period also saw the introduction and unfortunate demise of the Edsel, a luxury car that never caught on with the public. Throughout the next several decades, Ford Motor Company continued to expand, opening operations in Asia, founding the Ford Motor Credit Company and acquiring other brands, including Mazda and Land Rover. In 2008 Ford alone, of the big three American automakers, avoided bankruptcy and a government bailout. Ford remains one of the largest car producers in the world.



Ford Motors billboard, 1940

Ford Motor Company Administration Building, 1996

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