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Ford Motor Company

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Ford Motor Company

The Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903 with $28,000 cash from twelve different investors. In the first couple years the company just produced a few Model T's and groups of 2 or 3 men would assemble the cars. It then grew into one of the most successful and profitable companies in the world. Henry Ford was 40 years old when he founded the Ford Motor Company. They sold their first car shortly after starting up, about a month after incorporation.

One of the best things that the Ford Motor Company did was be the pioneer of the assembly line. First used at the Highland Park plant in Michigan, this new invention let workers stay in one spot and repeat the same activity all the time. This helped the company greatly surpass the production value of their competitors, making their vehicles more affordable.

The vision of Henry Ford insisted that the company's future lay in the production of affordable cars for a mass market. And that's exactly what they aimed for.

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.

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 first Model T's were built at the Piquette Plant. The company was forced to move production to the much larger Highland Park Plant 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. Ford introduced the world's first moving assembly line on December 1 that year, which reduced chassis assembly time from 12Ð... hours in October to 2 hours, 40 minutes. However these innovations were not popular, and in order to 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, although seeing the increase in Ford's productivity, most soon followed suit.

By the end of 1913, Ford was producing 50% of all cars in the United States, 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 president 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 when on December 2, 1927 Ford unveiled the redesigned Ford Model A and retired the Model T.

Ford maintained production for nearly two years after the start of the Great Depression, however the slump in sales led to Ford closing the Model A assembly line on August 1, 1931, with the loss of 60,000 jobs. The following year, five 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 took until 1939 before sales returned to their 1929 levels.

After the outbreak of World War II, U.S. domestic automotive production ceased for the duration of the conflict, as the nation's industries were redirected to war production. Ford Motor Company was responsible for major contributions to the Allies' war effort. Of the companies contracted to produce the famous World War II "jeep" or general-purpose vehicle, Ford produced the most (the other companies included Willys-Overland, which later adopted the name Jeep.)

Wartime production at Ford also included aircraft construction. Nearby to its Detroit-area headquarters, Ford developed the Willow Run plant and its associated airfield, where the B-24 Liberator aircraft was produced. The Willow Run plant was a massive facility, and held the distinction at the time of being the world's largest enclosed "room"; at its peak, the plant was able to produce as many as one B-24 aircraft per hour of production. Willow Run, located near Ypsilanti, Michigan, still operates as an airfield today; today, Ford rival General Motors owns part of the facility, where manufacturing continues.

During the War, thousands of women found employment in manufacturing at Ford, many for the first time. These women became symbolized by the famous poster image of Rosie the Riveter.

Ford's former manufacturing plant at Richmond, California, located near San Francisco, is under development by the National Parks Service as the Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park.

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)) Similar charges have been made against other American firms which had European operations at the outbreak of hostilities.

Ford became a publicly traded corporation in 1956; however, the Ford family still maintains a controlling interest in the company. Henry Ford's great-grandson Bill Ford is presently chairman

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