Today, Ford is more than simply an American automaker. It is an automotive icon woven into the American tapestry and therefore something we often take for granted. However, a long and arduous path brought the Ford Motor Co. to this place – the Ford history.
Henry Ford’s first venture in 1899, the Detroit Auto Co., was a complete failure. That misstep forced Henry Ford to move his wife and children into his father’s home. Later, an auto race won on the streets of Detroit would attract new investors and a new company was born. Interestingly, the bulk of the $28,000 investment Henry Ford received came from John and Horace Dodge who would later found their own automobile company. After Ford withdrew from this second venture, it became Cadillac. He then founded the Ford Motor Co. as part of the Malcomson group in 1903.
Ford Motor Co.
In 1906, Henry Ford becomes the president and majority owner of the Ford Motor Co. By this time, Ford has become the number one automobile manufacturer in the United States, manufacturing more cars than Buick (see Buick history), Cadillac (see Cadillac history), and Olds combined. Since the company’s inception, research and development focused on the vehicle the world would know as the Model T or Tin Lizzie. Ford finally introduced the legendary Model T in 1908 and in doing so changed the world forever. Prior to this moment, automobiles had been playthings for the rich that generally required a driver conversant with its mechanical nuances. While most companies were content catering to this niche market, Henry Ford was a visionary who saw the potential in making a less inexpensive vehicle, one that everyone could afford. In the Roaring Twenties, Ford had already built its first plant overseas in Manchester, England, had built its five-millionth Model T, and purchased the Lincoln Motor Car Company. Lincoln would later become the main competitor of Cadillac, the company Ford started but would then be owned by rival automobile manufacturer General Motors (see GM history).
By 1940, the Ford Motor Company was an integral part of American life. It was the largest supplier of automobiles and it was one of the country’s largest employers. In March 1941, Ford begins manufacturing Jeeps for use by the U.S. Military in World War II. In February 1942, the Ford Motor Co. switches its focus to the war completely and does not resume civilian production until after the war had ended in July 1945. However, it was not until 1948, after the death of Henry Ford, that Ford began manufacturing all-new post-war cars. During the war, Ford had lost its top spot as America’s automobile manufacture. In 1950, it overtook Chrysler to regain the number two spot behind General Motors.
In the early 1950s Ford became a publicly traded company no longer entirely owned by the members of the family. Post 1950s some of the great benchmarks in the Ford Motor Co.’s history include the introduction of the Thunderbird in 1954, the launch of the notorious Edsel in 1957 and the Mustang’s premier in 1964.