A History of Ford Motor Company
The Ford Motor Company was started in Detroit by Henry Ford, who was born in 1863 and began working on motors for inventor Thomas Edison in 1891. Ford created a “quadricycle” in 1896, which was a four wheeled bicycle run by a motor. He launched his second car manufacturing operation, Ford Motor Company, in 1903.
Ford’s first project for the new company was the two-cylinder Model A, which first sold in 1903 and could travel at a speed of 30 miles per hour at 8 horsepower. It was followed by Models B and C. In 1908 he issued the Model T, which became a huge hit. It’s price was only $825 and most of the Americans could afford it. This made the vehicle the most sold serial car from that time. Its glory lasted through 1927 before it was replaced by a new version of the Model A. In its early days, Ford pioneered a new type of industrial production technique known as assembly lines.
Henry Ford retired in 1919 and was replaced by his son Edsel, who employed his brothers Henry II, Benson and William. Edsel’s vision was to bring design as well as utility to Ford vehicles. In 1922 Ford acquired the Lincoln Motor Company, a luxury car line that had gone bankrupt, originally named after President Abraham Lincoln. In the next few years he brought more curvy shapes to the Model T, which made it an even bigger hit. He also began to issue cars in different colors besides black for the first time. Edsel modernized his cars further in the 1920s with safety glass and hydraulic brakes.
By the Great Depression Edsel realized that the public was interested in medium-priced cars that could still be viewed by peers as impressive, so he introduced the Lincoln-Zephryr in 1935 and the Mercury in 1938. The Lincoln Continental was introduced in 1939. Ford experimented with soy beans as a material for manufacturing plastic parts and paint throughout the decade. During World War II the company acquired the Stout Metal Aircraft Company before Edsel died of cancer in 1943. Henry Ford then returned as head of the company for two years before turning control over to Henry II. The legendary founder Henry Ford died in 1947 at the age of 83.
Company profits had dipped with the late forties recession but the ’49 Ford gave the company new prosperity. It was designed for extra space, cruising and customization for car enthusiasts, achieving both elegance and performance. Its various body styles included convertibles, coupes, station wagons and sedans. One of Ford’s unsuccessful vehicles was the Edsel, which only lasted a few years after being introduced in 1958.
An American icon was born in 1964 when Ford introduced the Mustang at the New York World’s Fair. It was an instant success after being featured on the cover of Time and Newsweek, selling over 400,000 units its first year. It was the ultimate sports car, designed with both V6 and V8 engines with additional options for hardtops, coupes or convertibles. Between 1969 and 1974 the Mustang ushered in new models that included the Grande, the Mach 1 and the Mustang II. By the mid-seventies over 3 million Mustangs had been sold. More new models arrived in 1979 and 1994.
The Ford Fiesta was launched in 1976. It became a top selling small car in Britain and Germany through the early eighties. Ford’s European division had also developed the small family car the Escort, which was issued from 1968 through 2000. It was succeeded by the Focus, which first appeared in 1998. A larger family car, the Sierra lasted from 1982 through 1993, which replaced the popular Cortina, made from 1962 through 1982.
Henry II resigned from Ford Motor Company in 1979 and for the first time someone outside the Ford family took control of the business. William C. Ford, Jr., the great grandson of Henry Ford, became chairman in 1999 then CEO in 2001. Ford acquired Swedish auto-maker Volvo in 1999 then sold it in 2010. Ford also acquired the sports car Jaguar in 1990 and Land Rover in 2000. Both Jaguar and Land Rover were sold to Tata Motors in 2008.
By 2005 the American automobile industry was in deep financial trouble as rising gas prices and overhead cut into Ford’s profits. Demand for bigger vehicles such as SUVs declined as Ford began dropping less fuel efficient vehicles, moving toward more fuel efficient vehicles such as the hybrid Escape. In late 2006 Alan Mulally became the new CEO while William Ford remained Chairman. The company refused to file bankruptcy even while the entire nation sank into recession in 2008. Ford’s new vision resulted in a return to profitability in 2009. Ford discontinued its luxury Mercury vehicles in 2010. In 2012 Ford has a market capitalization of $42 billion, a few billion more than long time competitor General Motors.