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How Ford Adapted To The Changing Automobile Market

Table of contents.

Over its 118 year history, the Ford Motor Company has led the way in innovative technologies and leading business practices. 

Important stats to know about The Ford Motor Company: 

  • Controls 13.9% of the US automotive market share in 2022
  • Revenue of $136.3B in 2022  
  • Headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan
  • Produces over 4 million vehicles each year
  • Employs over 182,790 employees around the world
  • Ranked #21 in the Fortune 500
  • Market value of $54.51 Billion as of Feb, 2023

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The History of The Ford Motor Company

Henry ford’s vision.

The Ford Motor Company has a long history that was inspired by Henry Ford, an Irish immigrant to the United States. Ford realized that the world’s transportation needs were quickly changing at the turn of the 20th century. His first attempt to design and build an automobile was in 1896 when he created his first vehicle — the quadricycle. The vehicle had a simple design with a bench seat for two passengers, a four-horsepower engine, bicycle wheels, and a gearbox with two speeds (but no reverse). 

henry ford business plan

Henry Ford on his “quadricycle” 

In November of 1901, Henry Ford joined the Detroit Automobile Company, a car manufacturing company, but his time there was short-lived. He left the company the following year. This company went on to become the Cadillac Motor Company (which was later purchased by General Motors). 

The Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903 when Henry Ford used $28,000 of investor money (about $800,000 in today’s money) to open a manufacturing facility. One of the early investors was John and Horace Dodge who would go on to create their own car manufacturing company. Because investors feared that Ford would leave the company like he did the Detroit Automobile Company, a local banker, John S. Gray was chosen as the first president. 

Leadership under the Ford family

Henry Ford did eventually become president and controlling owner of the company in 1906. Ford was directly responsible for the early success of the company including the popular Model T and innovative assembly line processes. He held this position until 1919 when his son, Edsel Ford, took over as company president. 

Edsel Ford was an artist and led the company to change the design of cars from practicality to visually appealing. The newly designed Ford vehicles were a hit with consumers all over the world. Edsel Ford died in 1943 and Henry Ford took back over as president of the company since Edsel was his only son.

Two years later, Edsel’s son, Henry Ford II took over as president and served from 1945 to 1960. The company had grown exponentially prior to his leadership. Henry Ford II worked diligently to solve many problems that plagued the organization. The bookkeeping was a mess and work processes needed to be heavily refined. Henry Ford II took it upon himself to transform the company into the polished and disciplined brand that it is today. 

Going public on the New York Stock Exchange

After a long run as a private (and mostly family-owned company), the Ford Motor Company went public in 1956. Traded under the NYSE stock ticker “F”, the IPO (initial public offering) for Ford was the largest IPO in history at the time ( $657 million worth of stock sold - $28.5 billion in today’s dollars ). 

Early competition

In the early years, the Ford Motor Company had a lot of competition. In fact, in 1920, there were approximately 200 car manufacturers in the United States . The largest companies that Ford was up against included General Motors and Chrysler. General Motors had many brands that proved formidable competitors including Chevrolet, Buick, and Cadillac. While the competition remained fierce, many of the early car manufacturers went out of business. By 1940, only 17 car manufactures remained. 

Becoming an International Brand

The Ford Motor Company owes much of its success to its expansion into international markets. The company was quick to do this shortly after its inception. The first international manufacturing facility was opened in Walkerville (now Windsor), Ontario in 1904. This was built directly across the Detroit River from Ford’s other manufacturing facilities at the time. The Ford Motor Company of Canada was established as a separate company with its own shareholders with the mission to sell Ford vehicles in Canada and other parts of the British Empire.

By 1908, Ford opened its first sales office outside of North America in Paris, France. Shortly after, Ford opened assembly plants across Europe between the years 1917 and 1925 in Ireland, England, France, Denmark, Germany, and Austria. In 1924 and 1925, Ford expanded into South America (Argentina), Asia (Japan), Africa (South Africa), and Australia. 

In 1929, the Ford Motor Company was contracted to set up the Gorky Automobile Plant in Russia which produced the Model A and AA. This helped to further industrialize the country. 

Key takeaways

  • The Ford Motor Company’s early success was a result of Henry Ford’s mission to improve the automobile by creating a more durable and accessible version for the Average consumer. 
  • For 50 years, the Ford family led the company with each new CEO bringing fresh new ideas. This led to innovation that helped Ford outpace the competition. 
  • Early expansion into international markets helped accelerate Ford into an international brand with access to consumers all over the world. 

Cultural and Industry Impacts of the Ford Motor Company

The ford assembly line and manufacturing methods.

One of the most impactful reasons for Ford’s early success was the way they manufactured their vehicles. In the early years, the Ford factory produced a handful of cars each day by assigning 2-3 men to work on a car at a time. The car was built from start to finish. This was the normal manufacturing process of other car companies at the time. 

By 1913, Henry Ford created a new approach to manufacturing by introducing the first moving automobile assembly line where cars would move down the assembly line. Workers would be assigned one or two steps that they would perform over and over. This helped workers become better at their assigned tasks. Cars were produced at a much faster pace. This reduced the production time from 12.5 hours for a Model T to just 1.5 hours. With decreased production times, this new method drove down the cost making cars even more accessible for the average American. 

henry ford business plan

The moving assembly line isn’t the only manufacturing innovation that the Ford Motor Company has developed. In 1986, the Ford Motor Company introduced automated assembly for some subassembly tasks using robots. This process was initially tested in Ford’s St Louis facility and was a major success. This type of manufacturing is now used at most Ford plants today. 

Shaping the American workforce

The Ford Motor Company has a long history of embracing industry-leading policies in relation to its workforce. Henry Ford understood that in order to remain competitive and producing cutting-edge technology, the company needed to employ the best and the brightest. The monotonous and strenuous work of the moving assembly line created new problems for Ford with an increase in high turnover. 

In 1914, Ford responded by making a move that shocked the public and landed him on the front page of newspapers all over the country. The Ford Motor Company instituted a $5 workday doubling the existing rate of pay of assembly line workers. In addition, Ford reduced the workday from nine to eight hours allowing for the plant to run three equal length shifts (prior to that, the facility only ran two shifts). 

The most significant impact of this change was that the average assembly line worker at Ford could afford to purchase an automobile for their own families. The increased mobility, wages, and leisure time inspired a movement across the country. Many other companies began to follow suit giving the Ford Motor Company credit for the creation of the American middle class.

After the World Wars, the Ford Motor Company made significant efforts to employ many of the veterans who had returned home with disabilities. This move made the Ford Motor Company one of the first to hire workers with physical disabilities. At the time, most companies only hired able-bodied workers. Instead, Ford took a different approach. They not only hired these workers but created work environments that were modified to accommodate those with special needs. 

In 1941, Ford signed a contract with the UAW-CIO (United Auto Workers-Congress of Industrial Organizations) labor union. This contract helped drive better pay, benefits, and working conditions for Ford employees. 

Ford’s impact on the airline industry

Henry Ford understood that the transportation industry wouldn’t just expand on the ground. He recognized that air travel would become commonplace in the modern world. In 1925, the Ford Motor Company created its own airplane design. Between 1925 and 1933, the company manufactured and sold nearly 200 Ford Tri-Motor airplanes (nicknamed the Tin Goose). This model of plane was used by early commercial airlines in the United States. 

To help encourage further development of the industry, the Ford Motor Company provided 35 of the plane’s patents royalty-free including its navigation system (the navigational radio beam). This allowed other companies in the space to further develop aviation technology. 

Supporting the United States during the World Wars

Automobile manufacturing plants were easy to convert into facilities to produce other types of vehicles. In 1918, Ford’s River Rouge Complex began producing anti-submarine patrol boats, cars, ambulances, trucks, tractors, tanks, and airplane engines that would be supplied to Allied troops. As the war came to an end, Ford moved production back to civilian vehicles. 

Unfortunately, peace only lasted a couple of decades. As tensions began to churn again in the early 1940s, the US government began ordering jeeps from the Ford Motor Company. The word “jeep” came from the acronym “GP” which stood for “General Purpose”. 

By 1942, Ford once again halted civilian production of automobiles to support the war effort of World War II. The Ford Motor Company worked with Charles Lindberg, the infamous trans-Atlantic pilot, on the construction of more than 8,000 B-24 Liberator bombers.

In 1944, Rose Will Monroe was working as a rivet gun operator at Ford’s Willow Run facility. She was chosen to serve as the icon to promote the sale of bonds to support the war effort. Her fictional character “Rosie the Riveter” was featured on the iconic “We Can Do It!” posters all across the country. The campaign was a success and is noted as one of the most iconic images from the era.

henry ford business plan

  • Ford’s creation of the first moving automobile assembly line sped up production allowing the Ford Motor Company to produce significantly more vehicles at a lower cost than their competitors. 
  • The Ford Motor Company gained a competitive advantage by increasing wages, reducing hours, and improving working conditions. This helped them secure the best talent and improved employee morale and productivity. 
  • The Ford Motor Company helped stimulate growth in industries that would purchase Ford products by investing in the development of new technologies. For example, Ford provided free patents to early airlines in hopes they would purchase Ford-built planes.
  • Ford produced hundreds of vehicles to support the United States during World War I and II. The government contracts were not only profitable, but Ford became recognized for their support. The war also helped expose the global market to Ford-manufactured vehicles. 

Evolution of Popular Ford Models

The Ford Motor Company has had many major successes in its development of popular, cutting-edge vehicles over its nearly 120-year history. Some of these models have consistently held records for their high sales numbers and groundbreaking innovations. 

  • Model T (1908) - The Model T was one of the most successful models released by Ford and demonstrated his vision to make automobile transportation accessible to the average person. Prior to the Model T, most automobiles were considered luxury items. The design was intended to drive down costs. Between 1908 and 1927, Ford sold over 15 million Model T’s. The other challenge that the Model T solved was its durability and easy maintenance. Most other automobiles at the time couldn’t handle the many miles of rough, unpaved roadways. The Model T solved for this using vanadium steel alloy for some of its parts so they would be more durable. 

henry ford business plan

  • Model A (1927) - Ford continued to sell the Model T successfully for 18 years. However, other car manufactures soon caught on to Ford’s manufacturing process and started gaining market share. This pressure from other car manufacturers forced the Ford Motor Company to rethink their design of the Model T. This led to the creation of the Model A. Henry Ford assigned his son, Edsel, to take charge of developing the sleek new design. The Model A was equipped with innovative features like a Safety Glass windshield, industry-standard driver controls, and a fuel gauge. The Model A was produced around the world in plants in Argentina, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Despite the economic challenges of the Great Depression, Ford sold 5 million Model A’s before it was discontinued in 1931. 

henry ford business plan

  • F-Series Pickup Trucks (1948) - During World War II, the Ford Motor Company created a variety of military trucks. Ford recognized that these vehicles which were used to haul supplies to troops all over Europe had a civilian application as well. So in 1948, the company unveiled a new line of trucks. Earlier truck models were simply built on car platforms. This new line would be built on a chassis that was specially designed for heavy hauling. The original line came in eight sizes and weight ratings from the F-1 (0.5-ton capacity) up to the F-8 (3-ton capacity). This gave consumers the option to pick the right truck for their needs. The F-series naming was updated in 1953 to F-100, F-250, and F-350. These trucks remain extremely popular today. Over the last 40 years, the F-series has remained the best-selling vehicle in the United States. 
  • Thunderbird (1954) - The Ford Thunderbird was introduced as a direct response to the Chevrolet Corvette. The car featured a sleek design that was very popular, but instead of focusing on power and speed like the Corvette and other European sports cars, they focused on driver comfort. This strategy paid off. Ford sold nearly 25x the number of Thunderbirds than Chevy sold Corvettes. (16,155 Thunderbirds compared to only 674 Corvettes).

henry ford business plan

  • Mustang (1964) - In the 1960s, Ford Vice President, Lee Iacocca, wanted to create a new model targeted at younger drivers who wanted a sporty look but didn’t want to spend a fortune. Developed on a shoestring budget, the Ford Mustang was introduced in 1964 and quickly became an American cultural icon and was featured in movies and songs. Within a few short years, the Mustang became one of the fastest-selling vehicles in history and is still produced today. 

henry ford business plan

  • Fiesta (1976) - The first internationally successful model was the Ford Fiesta. In the 1970s, the oil crisis led to a demand for fuel-efficient cars. Car manufacturers all over Europe began introducing compact model cars including the Fiat 127, Renault 5, and BMC Mini. The company spent $870 million developing the model which was the largest development budget in the company’s history at the time. In the first year of sales, the Fiesta broke the sales record that the 1965 Mustang had set. 
  • Escort (1980) - The Ford Escort was originally designed as a small family car in Europe in 1968. It became widely popular especially in the United Kingdom where it was the best-selling car during the 1980s and 1990s. It wasn’t until 1980 that Ford brought the Escort to North America when the company needed a quick replacement for the Ford Pinto. The Pinto had a fuel tank design flaw that led to the death of a few hundred people and created a public relations nightmare for the company.
  • Explorer (1990) - In the early 1990s, the Ford Motor Company recognized a growing interest in a new type of passenger vehicle — the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV). They set out to design their own SUV which became the Ford Explorer. The Explorer became the catalyst for the SUV market and other manufacturers soon followed suit. By the late 1990s, SUV sales exceeded that of regular passenger cars. 

henry ford business plan

  • The Ford Motor Company was able to create many popular vehicle models by paying close attention to what their competitors were doing and what their customers wanted. 
  • Ford designed and introduced many variations of its models based on the local tastes and demands of each international market.

Introduction and Acquisition of New Brands

Lincoln motor company.

Lincoln Motor Company was created in 1917 as a luxury car manufacturer. The Ford Motor Company began feeling the pressure of competition from luxury brands like Cadillac and Packard. In September of 1922, Ford purchased the Lincoln Motor Company for $8 million (over $123 million today). Today, Lincoln focuses on a small number of models of luxury full-size sedans and SUVs.

The flagship automobile of Lincoln, the Continental was extremely popular throughout the history of the company. It has been reintroduced and discontinued several times, most recently from 2017 to 2020. 

In 1939, under the direction of Edsel Ford, the Ford Motor Company created the Mercury brand. This was intended to compete with General Motors who produced several mid-priced vehicles including Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick. Mercury was the perfect solution to bridge the gap between the affordable Ford brand and high-end Lincoln cars. 

In 2011, after 82 years of operation, Ford announced the decision to end the production of Mercury vehicles. The company decided to put more focus on the Ford and Lincoln brands. 

The Ford Motor Company has been very successful in many of its ventures. However, the Edsel brand turned out to be a costly disaster. Created in 1956 to help the company gain market share from Chrysler and General Motors, Edsel was hyped as the “car of the future”. Despite millions of dollars poured into fancy marketing campaigns, the final product left much to be desired for the consumer. 

There were numerous complaints about the cars being unattractive and having poor quality craftsmanship. One example was the Teletouch transmission selector, which was a series of buttons placed at the center of the steering wheel to change gears. This odd placement confused drivers and was difficult to operate. In order to move the transmission from park to drive, the operator had to shift from park, to reverse, to neutral, and then drive. The transmission motor also didn’t work well on hills requiring drivers to use the parking brake instead of putting the vehicle in park. 

A scathing article published in a 1958 edition of Popular Mechanics highlighted many of the issues that drivers were reporting including poor welding, power steering failure, a leaking trunk, and a faulty odometer. 

After taking a loss of $250 million ($2.2 billion today), the Ford Motor Company chose to discontinue the brand after only three years in 1959. 

Rivian is an American electric vehicle manufacturer founded in 2009. With the rise of electric vehicles, the Ford Motor Company made a brief investment of $500 million into the brand in 2019. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company decided to terminate the contract. They have decided to maintain their relationship with Rivian for future potential partnerships, but in the meantime, have shifted those resources to the Lincoln Motors brand. 

  • Ford faced many pressures from other automotive companies. They purchased and created new automotive brands like Lincoln and Mercury to give them a wider range of options for their customers.
  • Not every new brand was a success. The Edsel brand cost the company millions of dollars and damaged its reputation. 

Innovations Led by The Ford Motor Company

The Ford Motor Company had a hand in creating many new products and innovations throughout its history. In addition to new technologies, Ford also played a part in the creation of new industries and historic events such as the moon landing. The Ford Motor Company created its own scientific laboratory in Dearborn, Michigan in 1951 to perform experiments and research for technology and scientific breakthroughs that could be used both inside and outside the automobile industry. 

In 1932, Ford created the first commercially successful V8 engine. This was a hit as American’s became more interested in automobiles with powerful engines. This engine is still popular today with hot rod enthusiasts. 

Early automobiles had a reputation for being unsafe. Ford recognized this and decided to put a focus on reducing automobile accidents and injuries to help change consumer perception. In 1954, the company began performing crash tests to measure the effectiveness of designs and safety features. Since then, Ford has performed more than 31,000 crash tests around the world. In recent years, Ford has begun using computer-simulated tests in tandem with physical crash tests. This has significantly improved the company’s data and insight on safety testing. 

From 1961 to 1974, Ford owned Philco, a consumer electronics company. Philco was responsible for designing, building, and equipping NASA’s mission control during the Apollo and Gemini space programs. The company also launched a series of communications satellites, many of which still provide data and telecommunications access today. 

In 1970, Ford introduced the three-point, self-adjusting lap, and shoulder seat belts into its vehicles as a standard safety feature. 

  • The Ford Motor Company has spent a considerable amount of money on new technology to help it stay competitive. 
  • The company wisely chose to focus on developing technology in general and not just the automobile industry. This allowed the company to expand beyond its expertise into industries like aerospace. 

Ford’s Corporate Strategy

The 21st Century has posed many challenges for the Ford Motor Company including the 2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, to name a few. The Ford Motor Company unveiled a new strategic plan at the end of 2020 (called “The Plan”) that will revitalize the company by modernizing how it operates, simplifying processes, and exploring new opportunities for growth. 

Electric vehicles

Ford Motor Company's strategy to embrace electric vehicles (EVs) is a core component of its commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and aligns with the Paris Climate Agreement's goals. With an enhanced investment commitment of $22 billion through 2025, Ford is expanding its electric lineup to include not only innovative new models but also electrified versions of its iconic vehicles. This includes the Mustang Mach-E, which combines the marque's legendary performance with electric efficiency, and the F-150 Lightning, an electric iteration of America's best-selling truck, reflecting Ford's ambition to meet diverse consumer needs.

Additionally, the electric Ford Focus represents Ford's foray into the compact car segment with electric power, offering a sustainable, efficient option for city driving and daily commutes. Through these efforts, Ford is actively contributing to the global shift towards sustainable transportation, demonstrating its leadership in the automotive industry's transition to electric mobility.

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Sustainability

From a sustainability standpoint, the company wants to tackle an impressive list of environmentally friendly milestones. Its mission is to contribute to 11 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). These goals include moving all manufacturing to renewable energy by the year 2035, replacing all plastic vehicle parts with 100% recycled materials, and eliminating all single-use plastics from its manufacturing process. 

Enhanced safety

The Ford Motor Company is dedicated to making its automobiles safer than ever before. With the development of new safety features and self-driving technology, the company wants to create a world that is free from vehicle accidents and workplace injuries. 

  • In 2020, the Ford Motor Company unveiled a new plan to revitalize the company as the world economy comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • The strategic plan focuses on creating a sustainable line of vehicles through the development of new electric cars, trucks, and vans. 
  • The company looks to meet sustainability goals set forth by the United Nations and the Paris Climate Agreement. 
  • Ford also wants to place a focus on improving automotive safety.

Ford’s Impact of Racing and Motorsports

The Ford Motor Company has a long history of being a part of racing culture since its beginnings. Even before the company was founded, Henry Ford successfully reached a top speed of 20 miles per hour in his quadricycle. In the years following, Ford also won several races and set speed records with his personally designed Ford 999. 

In 1966, Ford captured the world’s attention when three Ford GT40 MK II’s crossed the finish line at the 24-hour Le Man’s race taking first, second, and third place. Not only did this make Ford the first American car manufacturer to win the title, but they also broke Ferrari’s six-year winning streak. Ford went on to take first place in 1967, 1968, and 1969. 

henry ford business plan

For over 80 years, Ford has been represented in NASCAR races. The first win came in 1949 when Jim Roper won a race in Charlotte in a Lincoln. The following year Jimmy Florian won the first race in a Ford vehicle at Dayton Speedway in Ohio. Since then, Ford-built cars have won more than 800 NASCAR races, second only to Chevrolet. 

In addition to Le Mans and NASCAR, Ford has drivers participating in many other events and races including Formula 1 and the World Rally races. 

For a car manufacturer, being able to demonstrate your vehicle’s performance on a racetrack helps to signify the brand as a well-engineered machine. The more races won in a Ford brand vehicle, the more notoriety the company receives. Key races like the 1966 win at Le Mans are a great way to capture the attention of car enthusiasts everywhere. 

  • The Ford Motor Company has used racing throughout its history to demonstrate the power and quality of Ford vehicles. 
  • The investment put into developing race cars like the Ford GT have helped Ford capture historic wins that provide exponentially more value from advertising and positive PR. 

Recovery from the Brink of Financial Ruin

Despite having over 100 years of success, the Ford Motor Company hit a rough patch in 2006 and was in a dismal state. The company was on track to take a loss of $17 billion due to falling sales. This forced plant closures and massive layoffs which resulted in Ford buying out 38,000 unionized workers. The Ford Motor Company needed cash but couldn’t get additional financing due to receiving a “junk” bond status. To remain solvent, the company had to mortgage its assets to raise cash. Share prices had plummeted from an all-time high of about $35 in 1999 to $8 in 2006. 

The CEO at the time was Bill Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford. He recognized that the company needed a new leader. In a bold move that shocked the industry, Bill Ford convinced the company board to appoint Alan Mulally as President and CEO of Ford Motor Company. Alan Mulally knew very little about the automotive industry. He began his career as an aerospace engineer at Boeing in 1969. Over his 37 years at Boeing, he rose to the position of president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes (a subsidiary of The Boeing Company). He was known for helping to save Boeing from bankruptcy after financial trouble in the late 90s and early 2000s. Bill Ford felt confident that Alan Mulally could do the same for Ford. 

Mulally quickly identified that there were some underlying issues that were resulting in Ford’s stunted performance including a lack of transparency, bad leadership, and a stagnant product line. He openly admitted to the organization that he didn’t have automotive expertise. This helped to drive a culture of more transparency within the Ford Motor Company. Rather than hiding behind inexperience, challenges, or failures, the team began speaking up when they needed help or additional support. 

Mulally also introduced a new approach to meetings. When arriving at Ford, he quickly realized that there were lots of pointless meetings where many topics and issues were discussed but resulted in no action. The normal Ford meetings were replaced with BPR (Business Plan Review) meetings in which leaders would present their 4-5 top priorities with a green, yellow, or red status. This helped the team quickly identify what areas needed the most attention. 

When Mulally announced his plan to the board of directors, he committed to focusing on four major objectives: 

  • Aggressively restructure the organization to operate profitably at the current market demand.
  • Accelerate the development of new products based on customer wants and needs. 
  • Finance the plan and improve the balance sheet.
  • Work together effectively as one team. 

The strategy was extremely successful. Not only was Mulally able to turn the company around, but they also avoided needing the taxpayer bailouts that General Motors and Chrysler needed during the 2007-2008 financial crisis. This was a huge feat and boosted public confidence in the company.

  • Ford leadership was able to quickly recognize the need for a new CEO to help redirect the company in 2006 when sales began declining sharply resulting in major losses. 
  • Bill Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, convinced the board of directors to hire a man with no experience in the industry, Alan Mulally. He understood that experience leading an organization through tough financial times was more important than technical knowledge.
  • Mulally’s success was a result of driving a culture change at Ford Motor Company that increased transparency and eliminated counterproductive attitudes and behavior. 

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways

The Ford Motor Company is a true innovator in the automotive space. Aside from General Motors, no other car manufacturer has seen the levels of growth that Ford has achieved. Much of the success comes from the brilliant leadership of the Ford family that ran the company for over 50 years. Even through tough times, the company has found ways to grow and adapt. Their dedication to being the best helped make Ford the iconic American brand it is today.

 Recap: growth by the numbers

  • The Ford Motor Company thrived under the Ford family leadership for over 50 years. Each Ford president (Henry Ford, Edsel Ford, and Henry Ford II) brought new ideas and perspectives that helped the company adapt to changes in the market and competition.
  • One of Henry Ford’s greatest successes was the development and refinement of the moving assembly line process. This significantly increased productivity, improved quality, and decreased production costs.
  • Few brands have shaped American culture like Ford. The Ford Motor Company is credited with the creation of the American middle class by offering competitive salaries and reduced working hours.
  • Ford has created many ground-breaking and popular models including the Model T, Mustang, F-series pickup truck, and Thunderbird. They have been successful at staying ahead of most market trends and consumer demands.
  • The Ford Motor Company has been able to grow by not only developing the Ford brand but also building and acquiring additional brands like Lincoln and Mercury to compete in the luxury and mid-price markets.
  • Ford ramped up its international reach quickly between 1917 and 1925. Within a few short years, the company was selling cars on every continent.
  • The Ford Motor Company has been an innovator both inside and outside the automotive space. They have been dedicated to many forms of scientific and technological research including automotive safety, aerospace, and clean energy.
  • In 2020, the Ford Motor Company announced their new corporate strategy – The Plan. The goal is to revitalize and grow the company as it recovers from the challenges of the 21st century including the 2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Plan focuses on converting its vehicle line to electric vehicles, tackling environmental objectives, and focusing on enhancing automotive safety.
  • As an automotive manufacturer, Ford has a long history of involvement in racing and motorsports around the world. It’s most famous for its wins at Le Mans in the 1960s and success in the NASCAR series. 
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Henry Ford The Man Who Taught America To Drive

Henry Ford Founder of Ford Motor Co. Founded: 1903

" I will build a motor car for the great multitude.it will be so low in price that no man will be unable to own one ."-Henry Ford

Henry Ford was nearly 40 when he founded Ford Motor Co. in 1903. At the time, "horseless carriages" were expensive toys available only to a wealthy few. Yet in just four decades, Ford's innovative vision of mass production would not only produce the first reliable, affordable "automobile for the masses," but would also spark a modern industrial revolution.

Ford's fascination with gasoline-powered automobiles began in Detroit, where he worked as chief engineer for the Edison Illuminating Co. The automobile offered the promise of a bright new future.a future Ford wanted to part of. So in 1891, Ford began devoting his spare time to building what he called the "Quadricycle"-a crude contraption that consisted of two bicycles placed side by side, powered by a gasoline engine. After working on the Quadricycle for nearly a decade, Ford took Detroit lumber tycoon William H. Murphy for a ride in his hand-built automobile. By the time the ride was over, they were in business.

The Detroit Automobile Company opened in 1899 with Ford as superintendent in charge of production. But the venture only lasted a year. Ford could build a car, but he couldn't build them fast enough to keep the company afloat. Undaunted, Ford hatched a new plan-to build a racer. Ford saw racing as a way to spread the word about his cars and his name. Through the notoriety generated by his racing success, Ford attracted the attention of the backers he needed to start Ford Motor Co. in June 1903.

Ford set up shop in a converted wagon factory, hired workers, then designed and produced the Model A, the first of which he sold to a Chicago dentist in July 1903. By 1904, more than 500 Model A's had been sold.

While most other automakers were building luxury-laden automobiles for the wealthy, Ford had a different vision. His dream was to create an automobile that everyone could afford. The Model T made this dream a reality. Simpler, more reliable and cheaper to build than the Model A, the Model T-nicknamed the "Tin Lizzie"-went on sale in 1908 and was so successful within just a few months that Ford had to announce that the company couldn't accept any more orders-the factory was already swamped. Ford had succeeded in making an automobile for the masses, but only to create a new challenge.how to build up production to satisfy demand. His solution? The moving assembly line.

Ford reasoned that if each worker remained in one assigned place and performed one specific task, they could build automobiles more quickly and efficiently. To test his theory, in August 1913, he dragged a chassis by rope and windlass across the floor of his Highland Park plant-and modern mass production was born. At peak efficiency, the old system had spit out a finished Model T in 12 and a half working hours. The new system cut that time by more than half. Ford refined and perfected the system, and within a year it took just 93 minutes to make a car.

Because of the more efficient production, Ford was able to cut hundreds of dollars off the price of his car. Cutting the price enabled Ford to achieve his two aims in life-to bring the pleasures of the automobile to as many people as possible, and to provide a large number of high-paying jobs.

But there was one problem Ford hadn't foreseen. Doing the same task hour after hour, day after day quickly burned out his work force. The turnover rate became such a problem that the company had to hire close to 1,000 workers for every 100 jobs it hoped to fill. To solve the problem, Ford decided to pay his employees $5 per day-nearly twice the going rate. Workers flocked to Ford's gates.

His labor problems solved, Ford turned his attention to another matter-the issue of who really controlled Ford Motor Co. Believing they were parasites who continually interfered with his plans, Ford bought out all his stockholders in 1919. Free to lead the company as he chose, Ford explored a number of different ventures. In addition to building tractors and single-passenger planes, Ford also operated an early mail route and the first regularly scheduled passenger flights. Undoubtedly the grandest of Ford's ventures was The Rouge-a factory that was in itself one giant machine. Built on the Rouge River, the 1,096-acre plant was the largest industry complex of its time.

Henry Ford Continued

Throughout the 1920s, workers at The Rouge pumped out hundreds of thousands of Model T's, but the marketplace was changing and Ford began to fall behind the times. Ford had met its first serious competitor-Chevrolet. While Ford had dedicated the past 20 years to producing only one model, Chevrolet had developed a counterstrategy of releasing a new, improved model every year. The counterstrategy worked, and Chevrolet soon surpassed Ford in sales. Chevrolet's success proved that people wanted style, not just utility.

In this new era, Ford's "Tin Lizzie" was hopelessly outdated. A change was needed, but it wouldn't come without cost. In May 1927, Ford laid off thousands of workers while he figured out a way to get back into the marketplace. At the age of 64 he was starting over. With the release of a brand new Model A, Ford came roaring back to life. When the stock market crashed in October 1929, Ford Motor Co. was better off than most of its competitors. Thanks to the success of the new Model A, the company rode out the first two years of the Depression relatively untouched. Henry Ford even raised his workers' wages while dropping the price of his automobile. But he could only hold out for so long.

In 1931, the Depression caught up with Ford. After three years on the market, Model A sales fell dramatically. Chevrolet, with its new six-cylinder engine, and a new model from Plymouth cut into Ford's market share. Once again Ford was forced to shut down production and send workers home. What brought the workers back was yet another of Henry Ford's inspirations-the Ford V-8. This innovative eight-cylinder engine put Ford back on top.

But those who went back to work for Ford found that working conditions had changed. The young, humanistic idealist had become a hardened industrialist who believed the average worker wouldn't do a day's work unless he or she was trapped and couldn't get out of it. To ensure his workers put in a full day's work, Ford created the Service Department, a foreman and a group of supervisors, many of whom were ex-cons and boxers, who ruled the plant through fear and coercion.

When World War II erupted, the government asked Ford to build the B-24 Liberator Bomber. Ford had suffered a stroke in 1941, and due to his rapidly deteriorating physical and mental health, supervision of the project fell largely to Ford's only son, Edsel. Optimistic Ford spokespeople predicted that B-24s would roll out of the factory at the rate of one per hour. But by the end of 1942, only 56 planes had been built. Plagued by medical problems of his own, the project and the pressure proved to be too much for Edsel. In May 1943, 50-year-old Edsel Ford died. So at the age of 80, in spite of his clearly diminished capacities, Henry Ford once again took up the reigns of Ford Motor Co.

The news alarmed President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As the nation's third-largest defense contractor, Ford was a major part of the war effort. Aware of Ford's increasing mental incompetence, Roosevelt toyed with the idea of bringing in outside managers, or even nationalizing the plant. Instead, in August 1943, the Navy sent Ford's 26-year-old grandson home in hopes that Henry Ford II could bring order to the chaos that Ford had become. For months Clara Ford tried to convince Henry to step down and let their grandson take over. But Ford held out. Finally, Edsel's widow, Eleanor, threatened to sell her considerable holdings in the company if her son wasn't immediately named president. Henry Ford relented, and in September 1945 the crown was passed to Henry Ford II.

After stepping down as president, Ford went into seclusion, appearing only occasionally at company events. The raging fire that him driven him for more than eight decades had died out. On an April evening in 1947, Ford laid his head on his wife's shoulder and died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 84. Tens of thousands of people lined up to view Henry Ford's body as it lay in state. Some factories closed, while others shut down for a moment of silence. In all, it's estimated that several million workers were involved in some kind of demonstration of sympathy for the man who had irrevocably changed their lives and taught America to drive.

Ford Motor Co. was the last major automaker to unionize. Initially, Henry Ford kept his workers from organizing by paying nearly twice the going rate, cutting the workday from 10 hours to eight hours and introducing the five-day workweek. But Ford couldn't keep the United Autoworkers Union (UAW) out forever. When generosity failed, he turned to intimidation.

Ford formed the Service Department to ensure workers did their jobs and to keep the union out of his factory. Under the direction of Henry Bennett, a notorious figure with underworld connections, this group of ruthless thugs brutally repressed any attempt by UAW to organize Ford workers. In 1937, the Service Department mercilessly beat a group of union organizers attempting to pass out leaflets at the Ford factory. The beating left the union leaders battered, but undaunted. It took another four years of pushing before something broke.

On April 1, 1941, Andy Dewar, a worker in the Rouge River plant's rolling mill, changed labor history at Ford. After an argument with a foreman over working conditions, Dewar began yelling "Strike! Strike!" The call echoed through the plant, and the entire rolling line walked out.

Ford was preparing to do whatever it took to keep the UAW out of his factory until his wife, Clara, demanded he settle with the union. Clara rarely interfered in Ford's business dealings, but she was genuinely afraid that the situation would explode into real violence. She threatened to leave Henry if he didn't end the strike. In May 1941, Ford Motor Co. became a union shop. The agreement led to a new era of labor relations in the automobile industry, as workers turned away from their dependence on Ford's paternalism and fear of Bennett's Service Department, and toward the union shop steward and the skills of UAW negotiators.

The Getaway Car Of Choice

When Ford Motor Co.'s new V-8 hit the streets in 1932, it was an immediate hit with an American public who craved greater luxury and more power. With a top speed of more than 80 miles per hour, it was the fastest thing on four wheels. Not surprisingly, the speedy roadster quickly became a favorite of Depression-era bank robbers and gangsters.

John Dillinger was so impressed with the V-8's power that he sent Henry Ford a letter which read, "Hello, old pal. You have a wonderful car. It's a treat to drive one. Your slogan should be 'Drive a Ford and watch the other cars fall behind you.' I can make any other car take a Ford's dust."

Clyde Barrow of Bonnie and Clyde fame also felt compelled to compliment Ford on his achievement. "Even if my business hasn't been strictly legal," he wrote, "it don't hurt anything to tell you what a fine car you got in the V-8." Barrow remained loyal to Ford for the rest of his life. When he and Bonnie were shot to death in 1934, they were riding in a Ford V-8. In 1973, the bullet-riddled car sold at auction for $175,000-more than Hitler's Mercedes Benz.

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Useful Business Lessons from Henry Ford, History's Best Entrepreneur

In 1863, a baby boy was born on a farm in Michigan. That baby would grow up to masterfully repair watches, invent 'Fordism' (producing tons of inexpensive goods while paying workers well), and then build an empire based on assembly lines and mass production.

Henry Ford's success isn't just a story in a history book. What he did was built on a strong foundation of good business practices. Everything from how he treated his customers to his management of employees contributed to the rise of Ford Motor Company.

henryford

It’s been a while since Ford was in business, but his strategies and the lessons drawn from them are still super relevant in today’s business world.

1. Know Your Market

“If I had simply asked people what they wanted, they would have asked me for faster horses!” – Henry Ford

Knowing your target market goes much deeper than simply knowing what they want. Ford believed in offering his customers solutions to problems they didn’t even know they had.

Henry Ford knew he was going to build an automobile. Before he built it, though, he conducted extensive research on who would buy it, how much they could afford to pay, and what they would want and need in a car.

By the time the Model T was introduced, Ford already knew he had a large market of potential buyers, what features would make the buy, and what to charge them.

How you can do it :

Research! You can do a lot of basic, demographic research for free online. Zoom Prospector , FreeLunch.com , and the U.S. Census Bureau are chock full of industry trends, financial data, and demographic information that you can access for free!

Find more descriptive info through surveys. There are a ton of online tools available, like SurveyMonkey and Zoho , that are affordable or even free.

Your customers’ input is invaluable to your business. Something as simple and affordable as taking a handful of customers out for coffee can yield huge insights. The Dirt-Cheap Answer to Focus Groups can help you get started!

2. Efficiency Is King

“It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.” – Henry Ford

From mass production via the assembly line to economical personal effort, Ford and his company were captains of efficiency.

The assembly line allowed Ford Motor Company to produce automobiles quickly. Ford’s treatment of his workers allowed the company to retain employees and produce quality. These two factors combined to create ultimate efficiency.

When Ford introduced his assembly line at the first Michigan plant in 1913, his production of the Model T doubled . Without hiring additional labor or skimping on quality, this feat is huge!

The improved production allowed Ford to drastically increase the affordability of his car, dropping the price from $800 to $350, and increase his employees’ wages from $2.34 to $5 a day without hurting his bottom line.

Work smarter, not harder! Utilize whatever hacks you need in order to be your most productive self.

Good news! We can help:  There’s No Magic Fix: Get Organized by Going Back to Basics  and  Managing Your Growing Pains with Outsourcing

Work on finding the right mix of production cost, pricing, and profit for your business.

There are lots of tools that can help, like Producteev for managing tasks, Boomerang for Gmail for CRM, and Google Docs for file sharing. Bonus: They all offer a free package!

3. Focus On Quality

“Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.' – Henry Ford

When you’re excited about your product, it can be easy to find yourself in a rush to launch. But to be really passionate involves a lot of due diligence.

Ford insisted that if his name was gonna be on the company, the brand would stand for quality. He wanted to be 100% confident in his automobiles before they were sold.

Ethics aside, good quality is just plain good business, and it shows. Ford Motor Company was the #3 automobile manufacturer within a few years of its launch.

Don’t get ahead of yourself. Make sure quality is always your #1 priority.

Don’t be afraid to make an upfront investment in production.

Test, test, test!

4. Nothing Is Particularly Hard

“There are no big problems; there are just a lot of little problems.”

No matter what it is, nothing is truly that hard. There’s no task so big that it can’t be broken down into smaller, more manageable parts.

Ford said, “There are no big problems; there are just a lot of little problems.” And that’s the philosophy by which he ran Ford Motor Company.

Instead of thinking about launching an entire business, Ford took it one step at a time. First thinking about developing the product, then pricing, followed by advertising.

On a day to day basis, there’s no need to look very far into the future. Keep your focus on what’s in front of you right now. What needs to be done by tomorrow? By next week?

Take your work piece by piece, and don’t let the big picture overwhelm you.

Don’t be afraid to delegate. Many hands make a lot of work seem like a little. If it doesn’t absolutely need your touch, give it someone else.

5. Keep Employees Happy

'There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: make the best quality goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible .'

This is a big one. Happy employees will make #2 and #3 seem like a piece of cake, and there are a lot of ways to go about it. Generally, compensation, workplace culture, and sense of belonging are the huge factors that affect employee satisfaction.

Ford knew his workplace culture was what it was. Factory work is hard to make engaging and sexy. What he did to remedy this was unheard of in his time; he doubled the salaries of his workers.

The effect of this was two-fold. Obviously making more money makes employees feel happier about going to work. It also allowed most Ford employees to actually be able to afford a Ford automobile, which increased their commitment to their jobs.

Invest in your employees! Whether it’s an increase in salary or additional training, when you put your confidence behind your employees, they’ll be more satisfied.

Cultivate a positive office culture.

Recruit employees who are a good fit for your culture.

Take What You Need

The lessons we can draw from Henry Ford and the way he ran Ford Motor Company have clearly stood the test of time. No matter what industry or stage of business you’re in, these are important lessons that will help you optimize your business for today’s marketplace!

**Your Turn_:_ ** Which lesson do you think is most relevant today? Share with us!

About Author

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Kiera Abbamonte

Previously the Content Marketing Manager for LogMeIn and Grasshopper, Kiera's now a freelance writer specialized in writing blog content for e-commerce and SaaS companies. She's written for Kissmetrics, Help Scout, BigCartel, and of course, Grasshopper. Catch up with her on Twitter @kieraabbamonte.

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Founder, Ford Motor Company

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Retired curator of transportation at The Henry Ford, Bob Casey admits that he is fascinated with the way Ford approached life. "He was one of these people who didn't take a job because he knew how to do it," says Casey during this lengthy video interview. "He often took jobs because he didn't know how to do them, and they were opportunities to learn. It's a very gutsy way to learn."

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  • Transcript of Bob Casey's Interview About Henry Ford
Be ready to revise any system, scrap any method, abandon any theory, if the success of the job requires it.

His Early Life as an Inventor

Henry Ford did not invent the automobile. He didn’t even invent the assembly line. But more than any other single individual, he was responsible for transforming the automobile from an invention of unknown utility into an innovation that profoundly shaped the 20th century and continues to affect our lives today.

Innovators change things . They take new ideas, sometimes their own, sometimes other people’s, and develop and promote those ideas until they become an accepted part of daily life. Innovation requires self-confidence, a taste for taking risks, leadership ability and a vision of what the future should be. Henry Ford had all these characteristics, but it took him many years to develop all of them fully.

His beginnings were perfectly ordinary. He was born on his father’s farm  in what is now Dearborn, Michigan on July 30, 1863. Early on Ford demonstrated some of the characteristics that would make him successful, powerful, and famous. He organized other boys to build rudimentary water wheels and steam engines. He learned about full-sized steam engines  by becoming friends with the men who ran them. He taught himself to fix watches , and used the watches as textbooks to learn the rudiments of machine design. Thus, young Ford demonstrated mechanical ability, a facility for leadership, and a preference for learning by trial-and-error. These characteristics would become the foundation of his whole career.

Ford could have followed in his father’s footsteps and become a farmer. But young Henry was fascinated by machines and was willing to take risks to pursue that fascination. In 1879 he left the farm to become an apprentice at the Michigan Car Company, a manufacturer of railroad cars in Detroit. Over the next two-and-one-half years he held several similar jobs, sometimes moving when he thought he could learn more somewhere else.

He returned home in 1882 but did little farming. Instead he operated and serviced portable steam engines  used by farmers, occasionally worked in factories in Detroit, and cut and sold timber from 40 acres of his father’s land. By now Ford was demonstrating another characteristic—a preference for working on his own rather than for somebody else. In 1888 Ford married Clara Bryant  and in 1891 they moved to Detroit where Henry had taken a job as night engineer for the Edison Electric Illuminating Company . Ford did not know a great deal about electricity. He saw the job in part as an opportunity to learn.

Henry was an apt pupil, and by 1896 had risen to chief engineer of the Illuminating Company. But he had other interests. He became one of scores of people working in barns and small shops across the country trying to build horseless carriages. Aided by a team of friends, his experiments culminated in 1896 with the completion of his first self-propelled vehicle, the Quadricycle . It had four wire wheels that looked like heavy bicycle wheels, was steered with a tiller like a boat, and had only two forward speeds with no reverse.

A second car  followed in 1898. Ford now demonstrated one of the keys to his future success—the ability to articulate a vision and convince other people to sign on and help him achieve that vision. He persuaded a group of businessmen to back him in the biggest risk of his life—a company to make and sell horseless carriages. But Ford knew nothing about running a business, and learning by trial-and-error always involves failure. The new company failed, as did a second. To revive his fortunes Ford took bigger risks, building and even driving racing cars . The success of these cars attracted additional financial backers, and on June 16, 1903 Henry incorporated his third automotive venture, Ford Motor Company .

The Innovator and Ford Motor Company

The early history of Ford Motor Company illustrates one of Henry Ford’s most important talents—an ability to identify and attract outstanding people. He hired a core of young, able men who believed in his vision and would make Ford Motor Company into one of the world’s great industrial enterprises. The new company’s first car, called the Model A , was followed by a variety of improved models . In 1907 Ford’s four-cylinder, $600 Model N  became the best-selling car in the country. But by this time Ford had a bigger vision: a better, cheaper “motorcar for the great multitude.” Working with a hand-picked group of employees he came up with the Model T, introduced on October 1, 1908.

The Model T was easy to operate, maintain, and handle on rough roads. It immediately became a huge success . Ford could easily sell all he could make; but he wanted to make all he could sell. Doing that required a bigger factory. In 1910 the company moved into a huge new plant in Highland Park , Michigan, just north of Detroit. There Ford Motor Company began a relentless drive to increase production and lower costs. Henry and his team borrowed concepts from watch makers, gun makers, bicycle makers, and meat packers, mixed them with their own ideas and by late 1913 they had developed a moving assembly line for automobiles . But Ford workers objected to the never-ending, repetitive work on the new line. Turnover was so high that the company had to hire 53,000 people a year to keep 14,000 jobs filled. Henry responded with his boldest innovation ever—in January 1914 he virtually doubled wages to $5 per day .

At a stroke he stabilized his workforce and gave workers the ability to buy the very cars they made. Model T sales rose steadily as the price dropped. By 1922 half the cars in America were Model Ts and a new two-passenger runabout could be had for as little as $269.

In 1919, tired of “interference” from the other investors in the company, Henry determined to buy them all out. The result was several new Detroit millionaires and a Henry Ford who was the sole owner of the world’s largest automobile company. Ford named his 26-year-old son Edsel as president, but it was Henry who really ran things. Absolute power did not bring wisdom, however.

Success had convinced him of the superiority of his own intuition, and he continued to believe that the Model T was the car most people wanted. He ignored the growing popularity of more expensive but more stylish and comfortable cars like the Chevrolet, and would not listen to Edsel and other Ford executives when they said it was time for a new model.

By the late 1920s even Henry Ford could no longer ignore the declining sales figures. In 1927 he reluctantly shut down the Model T assembly lines and began designing an all-new car. It appeared in December of 1927 and was such a departure from the old Ford that the company went back to the beginning of the alphabet for a name—they called it the Model A .

The new car would not be produced at Highland Park. In 1917 Ford had started construction on an even bigger factory on the Rouge River in Dearborn, Michigan. Iron ore and coal were brought in on Great Lakes steamers and by railroad. By 1927, all steps in the manufacturing process from refining raw materials to final assembly of the automobile took place at the vast Rouge Plant , characterizing Henry Ford’s idea of mass production. In time it would become the world’s largest factory , making not only cars but the steel, glass, tires, and other components that went into the cars.

Henry Ford’s intuitive decision making and one-man control were no longer the formula for success. The Model A was competitive for only four years before being replaced by a newer design. In 1932, at age 69 Ford introduced his last great automotive innovation, the lightweight, inexpensive V8 engine . Even this was not enough to halt his company’s decline. By 1936 Ford Motor Company had fallen to third place in the US market, behind both General Motors and Chrysler Corporation.

In addition to troubles in the marketplace, Ford experienced troubles in the workplace. Struggling during the Great Depression, Ford was forced to lower wages and lay off workers. When the United Auto Workers Union tried to organize Ford Motor Company, Henry wanted no part of such “interference” in running his company. He fought back with intimidation and violence, but was ultimately forced to sign a union contract in 1941.

When World War II began in 1939, Ford, who always hated war, fought to keep the United States from taking sides. But after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Ford Motor Company became one of the major US military contractors , supplying airplanes, engines, jeeps and tanks.

The influence of the aging Henry Ford, however, was declining. Edsel Ford died in 1943 and two year later Henry officially turned over control of the company to Henry II, Edsel’s son. Henry I retired to Fair Lane, his estate  in Dearborn, where he died on April 7, 1947  at age 83.

Henry Ford’s Legacy

Henry Ford had laid the foundation of the twentieth century. The assembly line became the century’s characteristic production mode, eventually applied to everything from phonographs to hamburgers. The vast quantities of war material turned out on those assembly lines were crucial to the Allied victory in World War II. High wage, low skilled factory jobs pioneered by Ford accelerated both immigration from overseas and the movement of Americans from the farms to the cities. The same jobs also accelerated the movement of the same people into an ever expanding middle class. In a dramatic demonstration of the law of unintended consequences, the creation of huge numbers of low skilled workers gave rise in the 1930s to industrial unionism as a potent social and political force. The Model T spawned mass automobility, altering our living patterns, our leisure activities, our landscape, even our atmosphere. 

Why He Innovated

There is a prophetic story of how the 13-year-old Henry Ford got a pocket watch for his birthday, and then proceeded to take it apart. He simply wanted to know how it worked. It was a character trait that marked the rest of Ford's life. He wanted to know how things worked and, just as important, why they didn’t work.

Ford was interested in every aspect of life around him. He explored innovative forms of education which, in time, lead to the founding of the Edison Institute , known today as The Henry Ford. In a single location, Ford brought together dozens of buildings and millions of artifacts. It was one of the largest collections of its kind ever assembled, as well as a bold and ambitious new way for people of all ages to discover and explore the richness of the American experience for themselves.

Henry Ford took inspiration from the past, saw opportunities for the future, and believed in technology as a force for improving people's lives. To him, technology wasn't just a source of profits, it was a way to harness new ideas and, ultimately, further democratize American life.

Henry Ford was an industrialist who revolutionized assembly line production for the automobile, making the Model T one of America’s greatest inventions.

henry ford

(1863-1947)

Who Was Henry Ford?

Henry Ford was an American automobile manufacturer who created the Model T in 1908 and went on to develop the assembly line mode of production, which revolutionized the automotive industry.

As a result, Ford sold millions of cars and became a world-famous business leader. The company later lost its market dominance but had a lasting impact on other technological development, on labor issues and on U.S. infrastructure. Today, Ford is credited for helping to build America's economy during the nation's vulnerable early years and is considered one of America's leading businessmen.

Early Life and Education

Ford was born on July 30, 1863, on his family's farm in Wayne County, near Dearborn, Michigan.

When Ford was 13 years old, his father gifted him a pocket watch, which the young boy promptly took apart and reassembled. Friends and neighbors were impressed and requested that he fix their timepieces too.

Unsatisfied with farm work, Ford left home at the age of 16 to take an apprenticeship as a machinist at a shipbuilding firm in Detroit. In the years that followed, he would learn to skillfully operate and service steam engines and would also study bookkeeping.

In 1888, Ford married Clara Ala Bryant. The couple had a son, Edsel, in 1893.

In 1890, Ford was hired as an engineer for the Detroit Edison Company. In 1893, his natural talents earned him a promotion to chief engineer.

All the while, Ford developed his plans for a horseless carriage. In 1892, Ford built his first gasoline-powered buggy, which had a two-cylinder, four-horsepower engine. In 1896, he constructed his first model car, the Ford Quadricycle.

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Henry Ford Fact Card

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By 1898, Ford was awarded with his first patent for a carburetor. In 1899, with money raised from investors following the development of a third model car, Ford left Edison Illuminating Company to pursue his car-making business full-time.

After a few trials building cars and companies, Ford established the Ford Motor Company in 1903.

Ford introduced the Model T , the first car to be affordable for most Americans, in October 1908 and continued its construction until 1927. Also known as the “Tin Lizzie,” the car was known for its durability and versatility, quickly making it a huge commercial success.

For several years, Ford Motor Company posted 100 percent gains. Simple to drive and cheap to repair, especially following Ford’s invention of the assembly line, nearly half of all cars in America in 1918 were Model T's.

By 1927, Ford and his son Edsel introduced another successful car, the Model A, and the Ford Motor Company grew into an industrial behemoth.

Henry Ford's Assembly Line

In 1913, Ford launched the first moving assembly line for the mass production of the automobile. This new technique decreased the amount of time it took to build a car from 12 hours to two and a half, which in turn lowered the cost of the Model T from $850 in 1908 to $310 by 1926 for a much-improved model.

In 1914, Ford introduced the $5 wage for an eight-hour workday ($110 in 2011), more than double what workers were previously making on average, as a method of keeping the best workers loyal to his company.

More than for his profits, Ford became renowned for his revolutionary vision: the manufacture of an inexpensive automobile made by skilled workers who earn steady wages and enjoyed a five-day, 40-hour work week.

Philosophy and Philanthropy

Ford was an ardent pacifist and opposed World War I , even funding a peace ship to Europe. Later, in 1936, Ford and his family established the Ford Foundation to provide ongoing grants for research, education and development.

In business, Ford offered profit sharing to select employees who stayed with the company for six months and, most important, who conducted their lives in a respectable manner.

At the same time, the company's "Social Department" looked into an employee’s drinking, gambling and otherwise uncouth activities to determine eligibility for participation.

Henry Ford, Anti-Semite

Despite Ford’s philanthropic leanings, he was a committed anti-Semite. He even went as far as to support a weekly newspaper, The Dearborn Independent , which furthered such views.

Ford published a number of anti-Semitic pamphlets, including a 1921 pamphlet, "The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem.” Ford was awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the most important award Nazis gave to foreigners, by Adolf Hitler in 1938.

In 1998, a lawsuit filed in Newark, New Jersey, accused the Ford Motor Company of profiting from the forced labor of thousands of people at one of its truck factories in Cologne, Germany during World War II . The Ford company, in turn, said the factory was under the control of the Nazis, not the American corporate headquarters.

In 2001, Ford Motor Company released a study which found that the company did not profit from the German subsidiary, at the same time promising to donate $4 million to human rights studies focused on slavery and forced labor.

Ford died on April 7, 1947, of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 83, near his Dearborn estate, Fair Lane.

Henry Ford Museum

Ford was an avid collector of Americana, with a particular interest in technological innovations and the lives of ordinary people: farmers, factory workers, shopkeepers and business people. He decided to create a place where their lives and interests could be celebrated.

Opening in 1933, the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, displays the thousands of objects Ford collected and many more-recent additions, such as clocks and watches, an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, presidential limousines and other exhibits.

Also on display in the expansive outdoor Greenfield Village are operational railroad roundhouses and engines, the Wright Brothers bicycle shop, a replica of Thomas Edison's Menlo Park laboratory and Ford's relocated birthplace.

Ford's vision for the museum was stated as, "When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived; and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition."

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QUICK FACTS

  • Name: Henry Ford
  • Birth Year: 1863
  • Birth date: July 30, 1863
  • Birth State: Michigan
  • Birth City: Wayne County
  • Birth Country: United States
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: Henry Ford was an industrialist who revolutionized assembly line production for the automobile, making the Model T one of America’s greatest inventions.
  • Business and Industry
  • Astrological Sign: Leo
  • Goldsmith, Bryant & Stratton Business College in Detroit
  • Interesting Facts
  • Upon Thomas Edison's blessing, Henry Ford sought to make a better car model and eventually started his own company.
  • Ford became renowned for his revolutionary vision: the manufacture of an inexpensive automobile made by skilled workers who earn steady wages.
  • Despite his pacifism and philanthropy, Ford was strongly anti-Semitic.
  • Death Year: 1947
  • Death date: April 7, 1947
  • Death State: Michigan
  • Death City: Dearborn
  • Death Country: United States

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  • Article Title: Henry Ford Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
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  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: September 5, 2019
  • Original Published Date: April 3, 2014
  • The only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history we make today.
  • Failure is simply an opportunity to begin again; this time more intelligently.
  • The only real mistake is one from which we learn nothing.
  • If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said, 'Faster horses.'
  • Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars.
  • Vision without execution is just hallucination.
  • A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.
  • You don't have to hold a position in order to be a leader.
  • Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.
  • Don't find fault, find a remedy.
  • Whether you think you can, or you think you can't—you're right.

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By: History.com Editors

Updated: March 26, 2020 | Original: November 9, 2009

Henry Ford

While working as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit, Henry Ford (1863-1947) built his first gasoline-powered horseless carriage, the Quadricycle, in the shed behind his home. In 1903, he established the Ford Motor Company, and five years later the company rolled out the first Model T. In order to meet overwhelming demand for the revolutionary vehicle, Ford introduced revolutionary new mass-production methods, including large production plants, the use of standardized, interchangeable parts and, in 1913, the world’s first moving assembly line for cars. Enormously influential in the industrial world, Ford was also outspoken in the political realm. Ford drew controversy for his pacifist stance during the early years of World War I and earned widespread criticism for his anti-Semitic views and writings.

Henry Ford: Early Life & Engineering Career

Henry Ford driving his Quadricycle, circa 1896.

Born in 1863, Henry Ford was the first surviving son of William and Mary Ford, who owned a prosperous farm in Dearborn, Michigan. At 16, he left home for the nearby city of Detroit, where he found apprentice work as a machinist. He returned to Dearborn and work on the family farm after three years, but continued to operate and service steam engines and work occasional stints in Detroit factories. In 1888, he married Clara Bryant, who had grown up on a nearby farm.

Did you know? The mass production techniques Henry Ford championed eventually allowed Ford Motor Company to turn out one Model T every 24 seconds.

In the first several years of their marriage, Ford supported himself and his new wife by running a sawmill. In 1891, he returned with Clara to Detroit, where he was hired as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company. Rising quickly through the ranks, he was promoted to chief engineer two years later. Around the same time, Clara gave birth to the couple’s only son, Edsel Bryant Ford. On call 24 hours a day for his job at Edison, Ford spent his irregular hours on his efforts to build a gasoline-powered horseless carriage, or automobile. In 1896, he completed what he called the “Quadricycle,” which consisted of a light metal frame fitted with four bicycle wheels and powered by a two-cylinder, four-horsepower gasoline engine.

Henry Ford: Birth of Ford Motor Company and the Model T

Determined to improve upon his prototype, Ford sold the Quadricycle in order to continue building other vehicles. He received backing from various investors over the next seven years, some of whom formed the Detroit Automobile Company (later the Henry Ford Company) in 1899. His partners, eager to put a passenger car on the market, grew frustrated with Ford’s constant need to improve, and Ford left his namesake company in 1902. (After his departure, it was reorganized as the Cadillac Motor Car Company.) The following year, Ford established the Ford Motor Company.

A month after the Ford Motor Company was established, the first Ford car—the two-cylinder, eight-horsepower Model A—was assembled at a plant on Mack Avenue in Detroit. At the time, only a few cars were assembled per day, and groups of two or three workers built them by hand from parts that were ordered from other companies. Ford was dedicated to the production of an efficient and reliable automobile that would be affordable for everyone; the result was the Model T , which made its debut in October 1908.

Henry Ford: Production & Labor Innovations

The “Tin Lizzie,” as the Model T was known, was an immediate success, and Ford soon had more orders than the company could satisfy. As a result, he put into practice techniques of mass production that would revolutionize American industry, including the use of large production plants; standardized, interchangeable parts; and the moving assembly line. Mass production significantly cut down on the time required to produce an automobile, which allowed costs to stay low. In 1914, Ford also increased the daily wage for an eight-hour day for his workers to $5 (up from $2.34 for nine hours), setting a standard for the industry.

Even as production went up, demand for the Tin Lizzie remained high, and by 1918, half of all cars in America were Model Ts. In 1919, Ford named his son Edsel as president of Ford Motor Company, but he retained full control of the company’s operations. After a court battle with his stockholders, led by brothers Horace and John Dodge, Henry Ford bought out all minority stockholders by 1920. In 1927, Ford moved production to a massive industrial complex he had built along the banks of the River Rouge in Dearborn, Michigan. The plant included a glass factory, steel mill, assembly line and all other necessary components of automotive production. That same year, Ford ceased production of the Model T, and introduced the new Model A, which featured better horsepower and brakes, among other improvements. By that time, the company had produced some 15 million Model Ts, and Ford Motor Company was the largest automotive manufacturer in the world. Ford opened plants and operations throughout the world.

Henry Ford: Later Career & Controversial Views

The Model A proved to be a relative disappointment, and was outsold by both Chevrolet (made by General Motors) and Plymouth (made by Chrysler); it was discontinued in 1931. In 1932, Ford introduced the first V-8 engine, but by 1936 the company had dropped to number three in sales in the automotive industry. Despite his progressive policies regarding the minimum wage, Ford waged a long battle against unionization of labor, refusing to come to terms with the United Automobile Workers (UAW) even after his competitors did so. In 1937, Ford security staff clashed with UAW organizers in the so-called “Battle of the Overpass,” at the Rouge plant, after which the National Labor Relations Board ordered Ford to stop interfering with union organization. Ford Motor Company signed its first contract with UAW in 1941, but not before Henry Ford considered shutting down the company to avoid it.

Ford’s political views earned him widespread criticism over the years, beginning with his campaign against U.S. involvement in World War I . He made a failed bid for a U.S. Senate seat in 1918, narrowly losing in a campaign marked by personal attacks from his opponent. In the Dearborn Independent, a local newspaper he bought in 1918, Ford published a number of anti-Semitic writings that were collected and published as a four volume set called The International Jew. Though he later renounced the writings and sold the paper, he expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and Germany, and in 1938 accepted the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the Nazi regime’s highest medal for a foreigner.

Edsel Ford died in 1943, and Henry Ford returned to the presidency of Ford Motor Company briefly before handing it over to his grandson, Henry Ford II, in 1945. He died two years later at his Dearborn home, at the age of 83.

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Black and white image of the quadricycle

Henry Ford builds the Quadricycle

Henry Ford's first vehicle rode on four bicycle wheels and was powered by a four-horsepower engine. Instead of a steering wheel, the Quadricycle had a tiller. The gearbox had only two forward gears with no reverse.

Black and white image of Henry Ford

Henry Ford joins a group that founds the Detroit Automobile Company

Ford leaves company within one year.

Restored Sweepstakes race car

Henry Ford defeats the top racecar driver of the era

Ford designed the 26-horsepower Sweepstakes and defeated Alexander Winton's 70-horsepower Bullet in 10 laps around the one-mile oval of the Detroit Driving Club. The victory lead to Henry Ford's second short-lived attempt at auto manufacture, the Henry Ford Company.

Photo of Incorporation Document

The Ford Motor Company is incorporated

With 12 investors and 1,000 shares, the company had spent almost all of its $28,000 cash investment by the time it sold the first Ford Model A on July 23, 1903. But by October 1, 1903 Ford Motor Company had turned a profit of $37,000.

Black and white photo of Walkerville plant

Ford Motor Company of Canada is founded

Ford’s first international plant was built in Walkerville (now Windsor), Ontario, right across the Detroit River from Ford’s existing facilities. The company was a separate organization with its own set of shareholders. It was created to sell vehicles not just in Canada, but also all across the then-current British Empire.

Ford  Script logo

Ford introduces the scripted typeface of its trademark

Childe Harold Wills designed the Ford logo. He used his grandfather’s stencil set, which was based on the style of writing taught in schools when Ford and Wills were children. However, the Ford oval would not be featured on a car until the 1927 Model A.

Ford opens its first overseas sales branch in Paris

Black and white drawing of Ford Model T

Ford Introduces the Model T

Henry Ford’s Model T put the world on wheels with a simple, affordable, durable automobile. Ford sold 15 million Model Ts before ceasing production in May 1927, making it one of the best-selling vehicles of all time, and arguably the most famous car in the world.

In 1908, there were only about 18,000 miles of paved roads in the US. To deal with the primitive roads, Ford used light and strong vanadium steel alloy for critical parts. At the time, most of the automobiles in existence were luxurious novelties rather than affordable transport. But to appeal to the mass market, Ford’s vehicle also had to be reliable and easy to maintain. Fortunately for millions of new drivers, it was.

A black and white image of assembly line

Ford introduces the integrated moving assembly line to auto production

Ford's innovation eventually reduced the Model T's chassis assembly line from 12.5 to 1.5 hours, and in doing so precipitated a revolution in manufacturing. The accelerating speed with which Ford could produce cars helped him continue to lower the price of the Model T.

Image of newspaper article

Ford institutes the famous "$5 Day"

In 1914, $5 per day was double the existing pay rate for factory workers, and on top of that, Ford reduced the workday from nine to eight hours. The day after the “$5 Day” was announced, an estimated 10,000 people lined up outside Ford’s employment office hoping to be hired. Ford’s increased pay greatly improved employee retention since the monotonous and strenuous work of the moving assembly line was causing high turnover.

The increased wage had the added effect of allowing many of Ford’s employees to purchase the cars they produced, and the eight hour workday allowed Ford to run 3 shifts a day instead of 2. The increased pay, increased leisure time, and even increased the personal mobility of car ownership were all critical factors in the creation of an American middle class.

Color photo of River Rouge Complex

Ford begins construction of the River Rouge Complex

It would become the largest integrated factory in the world by the following decade. Throughout its history, the self-contained Rouge Complex has contained a wide array of industries necessary to produce cars, including steel mills, a tire factory, a glass factory, a power plant and a reception depot for coal, iron ore, rubber and lumber. In the 1930s the complex employed over 100,000 workers. Today the River Rouge Complex continues to evolve to meet the needs of modern manufacturing processes.

A black and white image of The Ford Model TT truck

Ford Motor Company produces its first ever truck

The Ford Model TT was a truck based on the Model T car, but with a reinforced chassis and rear axle. This early pickup was rated at one ton.

A black and white image of a patrol boat coming out of a factory

Ford’s River Rouge Complex begins manufacturing antisubmarine patrol boats

These 42 Eagle-class boats were the first product manufactured at the Rouge. In its efforts to aid the Allies in WWI, Ford also produced more than 38,000 Model T cars, ambulances, and trucks, 7,000 Fordson tractors, two types of armored tanks, and 4,000 Liberty airplane engines for the Allies. Afterward, Ford hired disabled veterans returning from the war, making the automaker one of the first companies to hire people with disabilities and to adapt work environments to their specific needs.

A painter painting a mural

Edsel Ford succeeds Henry Ford as president of the company

On the same day, Henry Ford put a plan in place to buy out his investors and make himself, Clara Ford, and Edsel the sole owners of the business. Edsel’s interest in aesthetic automotive design brought a new dimension to Ford Motor Company, pushing the company to begin producing cars that were beautiful as well as practical.

Edsel was also an extremely important art benefactor in Detroit, and one of the best-known paintings he commissioned was Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry mural. His aesthetic legacy lives on in the original Lincoln Continental.

A black and white image of three men standing around a desk

Ford acquires the Lincoln Motor Company

Ford purchased Lincoln from Henry Leland, his former business associate from the Detroit Automobile Company. Since then, Lincoln has produced many luxury cars of historical and aesthetic note, including the 1931-1939 K-Series, 1936 Zephyr, Edsel Ford’s original Continental, the ensuing first-generation Lincoln Continental and the classic 1956-1957 Continental Mk. II.

A black and white photo of a Ford Trimotor airplane

Ford begins production of Ford Tri-Motor airplanes

Ford’s plane was nicknamed the “Tin Goose,” a reference to the Model T’s nickname as the “Tin Lizzie.” The Tin Goose was one of the first airplanes used by America’s early commercial airlines.

Combined with Ford’s reputation, application of assembly-line techniques and investment in Ford Airlines, the plane helped spur the creation of the commercial airline industry. And to further accelerate the industry’s development, Ford offered the plane’s 35 patents free of royalties, including his patent for the navigational radio beam.

Color photo of a black Ford Model A car

Ford begins selling the 1928 Model A

While the Model T dominated the auto industry from 1908 to the early 1920s, by the middle of the decade there was fierce competition from other automakers. After the 15 millionth Model T drove off the assembly line on May 26, 1927, Ford closed plants all over the world to spend six months retooling factories and perfecting the design of a new car.

Ford called the new car the Model A, commemorating Ford Motor Company’s first car, the 1903 Model A. The car was the first vehicle to sport the iconic Blue Oval logo, and it included innovative features like a Safety Glass windshield. By 1931 Ford had sold over five million Model As despite the difficulties of the Great Depression.

A black and white image of an engine

Ford introduces the flathead V8 engine

As with the new Model A, Henry Ford shut down all other production operations to work on this innovative project. At great effort and expense, the company engineered a way to cast the first commercially successful V8 engine.

The flathead was a hit. It was affordable, versatile, and introduced just as the American market was becoming fascinated with ever-more powerful engines. It remained in production for over 22 years. To this day the flathead remains extremely popular with hot rodders.

A black and white photo of a Lincoln Zephyr

Ford begins selling the Lincoln Zephyr line

Much like the Mercury brand, Lincoln-Zephyr was designed to sell at a price point between the Ford V8 De Luxe and the high-end luxury cars offered by Lincoln. Lincoln-Zephyr’s sleek, aerodynamic shapes helped make the brand a sales success, but when auto production ceased during WWII, the Zephyr name was dropped as well.

A black and white photo of a car dealership showroom

Ford unveils the medium-priced Mercury brand

Edsel Ford created Mercury cars to bridge the gap between affordable Fords and luxurious Lincoln cars. The first Mercury was the 1939 Mercury 8, which had a V8 engine and a stylish body characteristic of Edsel Ford's design sense.

Black and white photo of Jeeps on an assembly line

Ford begins producing Jeeps for the U.S. military

The vehicles were nicknamed for their "GP," or general-purpose designation.

Black and white image of a group of men

Ford signs its first contract with the UAW-CIO

After years of struggle between management and labor at Detroit's major automakers, Ford signed a contract guaranteeing better pay, benefits and working conditions for employees.

Black and white image of aircraft assembly line

Ford halts civilian auto production in the United States to produce military equipment

Through its manufacturing expertise, Ford facilities built a staggering number of automobiles, planes, tanks, aircraft engines and other materiel for the war effort. By the end of WWII, Ford had produced more than 8,000 B-24 Liberator bombers. Charles Lindbergh, the famous trans-Atlantic pilot, worked as an advisor for the construction of bombers at Ford’s Willow Run plant. 

In 1944, Rose Will Monroe was working at Willow Run as a rivet gun operator when she was chosen to appear in a promotional film for war bonds. Rose became the personification of the fictional “Rosie the Riveter” character as depicted in the iconic “We Can Do It!” posters.

A close up black and white photo of Edsel Ford

Edsel Ford dies

Edsel was the only child of Henry and Clara Ford. After his death, Henry Ford returned to his former position as president of Ford Motor Company. Today, Edsel's legacy lives on in his contributions to the design of Lincoln cars and his generous backing of art in Detroit.

Black and white photo of a group of men

Henry Ford II becomes president of Ford Motor Company

The son of Edsel and the grandson of Henry Ford, Henry Ford II, served as president from 1945 to 1960 and as chairman and CEO from 1960 to 1979. When Henry II took over, the company and its bookkeeping practices were in disarray. With the help of ten former U.S. Army Air Force officers nicknamed the “Whiz Kids,” Henry II transformed the organization into a disciplined company with modern management systems – prepared for the global challenges of the post-war world.

A color photo of Ford pickup truck

Ford introduces the F-Series line of trucks

With its first postwar truck design, Ford ceased building trucks on car platforms and used a purpose-built truck platform instead. The truck was available in eight sizes and weight ratings, from the ½ ton capacity F-1 to the three-ton capacity F-8.

In 1953, Ford replaced the F-1 with the ½ ton F-100, along with the F-250 ¾ ton trucks and the F-350 one-ton trucks. In 1984, the F-100 was replaced by the F-150 line of trucks. Since 1982, F-series has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S.

Color photo of 1949 Ford Coupe

Ford introduces the 1949 Ford

The 1949 Ford was the first all-new American car design to come out of Detroit after WWII. With its wind tunnel-tested aerodynamic shape, integrated pontoon fenders, airplane-inspired spinner grille and an updated V8, the new car was as radical a change as the 1928 Model A.

Color photo of a Ford Thunderbird

Ford introduces the Thunderbird

The T-Bird emphasized comfort and convenience over sportiness. With its performance, design and distinctive porthole windows, the car would become a classic.

Black and white photo of an automobile crash test

Ford begins crash testing its vehicles

In the 60 years since then, Ford has performed more than 31,000 crash tests around the world. In recent years Ford has also used virtual crash testing to maximize the quantity and availability of crash data. In tandem with physical testing, the crash simulations help Ford gather more data than ever before.

Black and white image of stock shares signing event

Ford becomes a publicly traded company

At the time, Ford's initial public offering (IPO) of common stock shares was the largest IPO in history.

Color photo of a Lincoln Continental

The Continental Division of the Ford Motor Company introduces the Continental Mk II

Under Henry Ford's grandson, William Clay Ford, the 1956 Mk. II was a revival of the 1941 Continental that grew out of a custom car designed for Edsel Ford's private use. Edsel and designer E.T. Gregorie named these stylish and elegant cars for the inspiration they drew from the "continental" cars they saw in Europe.

Color photo of a 1958 Edsel

Ford introduces the Edsel

Introduced as a recession was beginning in the United States, the Edsel was simply the wrong car for the wrong time. However, the car's highly unique styling makes it a valuable collector's car to this day.

Ford Credit is founded

The full name of Ford's financial services arm is Ford Motor Credit Company LLC, and today the company offers loans and leases to car buyers, in addition to loans and lines of credit for Ford and other dealerships.

Color photo of 1965 Ford Mustang

The Ford Mustang goes on sale

The Mustang came to define the pony car class with its combination of a long hood, short deck, affordable price and customization options. The Mustang was a huge success, and today it remains one of the fastest-selling vehicles in history. With its role in movies like Bullitt and songs like "Mustang Sally," the car quickly became a cultural icon as well.

Black and white photo of a 1965 Ford Transit

Ford Germany and Ford U.K. collaborate to release the Transit in Europe

A black and white photo of Mission Control

Ford-Philco engineers unveil the Mission Control Center used to put a man on the moon

Ford owned Philco from 1961 to 1974, during which the company produced consumer electronics, computer systems, and military projects. In addition to designing, building, equipping and staffing Mission Control, Ford’s Philco electronics subsidiary performed support work for NASA’s Apollo and Gemini space programs thanks to Philco’s capabilities in transistors, solid-state devices, and microelectronics.

Later, Ford Aerospace and Communications Corporation evolved out of Philco. In 1976 the company built seven INTELSAT V satellites for the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization. These satellites are still used today to send television transmissions and telephone calls between continents.

Black and white photo of 3 Ford GT40s at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race

Three Ford GT40 Mk. IIs sweep the podium at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

Ford broke Ferrari's six-year winning streak at Le Mans to become the first American manufacturer to ever win the race. 1966 was the first of four consecutive victories for Ford, which won the 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans with various generations of the GT40.

Color photo  of woman wearing 3 point seatbelt

Ford introduces three-point, self-adjusting and retracting front outboard lap and shoulder belts

Color photo of a 1976 and a 2006 Ford Fiesta

Ford of Europe introduces the Ford Fiesta

The subcompact hatchback became the company’s first internationally successful front-wheel drive model. At $870 million, its development budget was also the largest in Ford’s history. Moreover, Ford built a massive plant in Almusafes, Spain, near Valencia, to manufacture the car. The investments paid off, and the Fiesta broke the one-year sales record of the 1965 Mustang.

From 1978 to 1981, Ford also sold the European Fiesta in North America. However, it wasn’t until 2009 that Ford would begin selling the Fiesta in the U.S. 

Color photo of automobile  1978 Panther

Ford introduces the downsized Panther platform

The smaller platform debuted in response to rising oil prices and new fuel economy regulations.

Color photo of Mr Caldwell Ford CEO and chairman

Phillip Caldwell succeeds Henry Ford II

Caldwell was the first non Ford-family member to become chairman and CEO of Ford.

Image of 1981 Ford Escort brochure

Ford begins selling the fifth-generation Escort world car

When the Ford Escort was first sold in North America, the car was designed to share components with the European Escort. As such, in its first year the North American car featured a badge with the name “Escort” superimposed over a globe instead of a blue oval. The car was one of Ford’s best-selling vehicles in the ‘80s.

Color photo of Ford Taurus

Ford revolutionizes automotive design with the Taurus

The Taurus’ aerodynamic “jelly bean” body style broke tradition with the boxy sedan shapes of the time, helping the car become one of Ford’s most popular vehicles ever. The car was an important part of a worldwide shift in automotive design. Within Ford, the car represented a shift toward increased quality standards and front-wheel drive designs.

henry ford business plan

Ford introduces the modular assembly line at its St. Louis assembly plant

The modular assembly line made use of automated ancillary assembly lines to produce vehicle sub-assemblies. The sub-assemblies were then added into the main assembly line. The trial run at St. Louis was a success, and today most Ford plants use modular assembly lines.

Color photo of 1991 Ford Explorer

Ford introduces the Explorer

In doing so, Ford helped launch the domestic SUV market. As SUVs became popular substitutes for family sedans, station wagons and vans, the Explorer became one of Ford’s most successful vehicles. The Explorer was a more comfortable and better-handling replacement for the Ford Bronco, which was discontinued in 1996.

Color photo of a Ford Mondeo

Ford introduces the Mondeo as its new global sedan

Though it was first introduced in Europe, the Mondeo was sold as the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique in the United States until 2000. Today the Mondeo is known as the Fusion in the United States.

Color photo of electric Ford Ranger

Ford produces the Ford Ranger Electric Vehicle

With lead acid batteries, regenerative braking, and a 700 lb. payload rating, the Ranger EV was a forerunner to today’s electric vehicles and hybrid energy systems.

Color photo of a 1998 Lincoln Navigator

The introduction of the Lincoln Navigator spurs rapid growth in the luxury SUV segment

Color photo of Bill Ford and Jacques Nasser

Ford's board of directors names Bill Ford to replace Jacques Nasser as CEO

The change helped the company return its focus to its core operations -- building cars -- and it realigned the company's values to emphasize its employees and the quality of its products.

Color photo  Ford Headquarters building with fireworks in the background

Ford celebrates its 100th anniversary

To commemorate the centennial of the company that put the world on wheels, Ford offered limited production centennial editions of five of the vehicles in its lineup at the time. Like the early Model T, the vehicles were offered in “any color so long as it is black.”

Color photo of Ford GT

Ford introduces the GT as its premium sports car

The mid-engine, 550 horsepower Ford GT was inspired by the legendary GT40 race cars that dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1966 to 1969.

Color photo of two men standing by a car

Alan Mullaly becomes Ford's President and CEO

Under Mullaly, Ford didn’t just weather the financial crisis of 2008 as the only American auto manufacturer to avoid receiving a government bailout loan. Instead of waiting out the crisis, Ford continued to aggressively invest in product development so that when the economy recovered Ford products would be some of the best vehicles on the market.

A key part of Mullaly’s leadership was the One Ford plan. One Ford envisioned every person in every part of the global enterprise as part of a single team united by a common culture and a shared goal to deliver outstanding products.

SYNC powered by Microsoft

Ford begins offering SYNC in vehicles sold as 2008 models

Created from a partnership between Ford and Microsoft, SYNC offers a hands-free, voice-activated connectivity system with mobile phone integration, navigation and voice-activated access to entertainment. Ford has continuously updated SYNC since its introduction in order to help drivers keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road while remaining connected to their technology.

Image  Ecoboost engine

Ford begins offering its turbocharged EcoBoost line of engines

Delivering better fuel economy and more power than a naturally aspirated engine of the same size, Ford’s EcoBoost engines quickly became a popular choice in the U.S. and abroad.

Color photo of a car

Ford discontinues the Mercury line to concentrate all its efforts on the Ford and Lincoln brands

Photo of Mark Fields surrounded by reporters

Mark Fields succeeds Alan Mulally as Ford's president and CEO

Fields is committed to building momentum around the One Ford plan through product excellence and instilling a spirit of innovation throughout the company.

Color photo of 50th Anniversary Mustang

The Ford Mustang celebrates its 50th anniversary

For 2015, the all-new sixth generation of the iconic pony car includes an independent rear suspension and a selection of high-output engines.

Color photo of 2015 F150 Pickup truck

Ford introduces the 13th generation, 2015 F-150

In a radical break with industry conventions, the new design uses an all-aluminum body to cut as much as 750 pounds from the truck’s weight. The technology necessary to create the new truck resulted in over 100 new patents approved or pending for Ford.

Ford Smart Mobility Experience

Ford Smart Mobility, LLC is Created

With a focus on changing the way the world moves, Ford Smart Mobility takes the company to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics. This includes the launch of the more intuitive Sync 3 System on Ford and Lincoln vehicles, more than 30 global mobility experiments, testing of autonomous vehicles in the snow – a first for the industry, and the introduction of FordPass for Ford members and non-members alike. 

Image of 4 Ford GT race cars with numbers 66 67 68 and 69

Ford celebrates 50-year anniversary of 24 Hours of Le Mans

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing enters four Ford GTs numbered 66, 67, 68 and 69 to honor the historic four consecutive victories that began 50 years prior.

Color photo of Jim Hackett

Jim Hackett becomes Ford CEO

Jim Hackett is President and Chief Executive Officer, Ford Motor Company, effective May 22, 2017. He also is a member of the company’s Board of Directors.

Photo of Michigan Central Station

Ford Acquires Corktown Campus

Michigan Central Station, shuttered 30 years ago, will be redeveloped over the next three to four years into a magnet for high-tech talent and a regional destination with modern work spaces, retail, restaurants, residential living and more.

MachE blue elecrtic car on the road

FORD DEBUTS THE ALL ELECTRIC MUSTANG MACH-E

For the first time in 55 years, Ford is expanding the Mustang lineup with the all-electric Mustang Mach-E SUV joining the sports coupe, convertible and special editions.

Jim Farley portrait

FORD'S BOARD OF DIRECTORS NAMES JIM FARLEY TO REPLACE JIM HACKETT AS CEO

Under Farley’s Ford+ plan, Ford is continuing to streamline and transform its global business, making changes in how the company is organized and operates to deliver executional excellence that benefits customers and delivers sustained profitable growth.

A man charging up from a power source his Ford electric Etransit car

FORD LAUNCHES THE ALL ELECTRIC E-TRANSIT

Leading the charge to power the future of business and productivity. 

Picture of the four door bronco truck

FORD BRINGS BACK THE ICONIC BRONCO

Built with the toughness of an F-Series truck and the performance spirit of Mustang, each comes wrapped in one of the most stunning off-road designs – true to the original DNA of Bronco while bringing forward innovative features that elevate the functionality of a rugged SUV.

Picture of the Ford mega power frunk

FORD REVEALS THE TRUCK OF THE FUTURE, THE ALL ELECTRIC F-150 LIGHTNING

F-Series, America’s best-selling truck for over 40 years, charges into the future with the F-150 Lightning, elevated by all the advantages of electrification and packed with connected technology.

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henry ford business plan

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DEARBORN, Mich., March 2, 2022 – Ford is continuing to transform its global automotive business, accelerating the development and scaling of breakthrough electric, connected vehicles, while leveraging its iconic nameplates to strengthen operating performance and take full advantage of engineering and industrial capabilities.

“This isn’t the first time Ford has reimagined the future and taken our own path,” said Ford Executive Chair Bill Ford. “We have an extraordinary opportunity to lead this thrilling new era of connected and electric vehicles, give our customers the very best of Ford, and help make a real difference for the health of the planet.”

Last May, Ford President and CEO Jim Farley introduced the Ford+ plan, calling it the company’s biggest opportunity for growth and value creation since Henry Ford scaled production of the Model T. The formation of two distinct, but strategically interdependent, auto businesses – Ford Blue and Ford Model e – together with the new Ford Pro business, will help unleash the full potential of the Ford+ plan, driving growth and value creation and positioning Ford to outperform both legacy automakers and new EV competitors.

“We have made tremendous progress in a short period of time. We have launched a series of hit products globally and demand for our new EVs like F-150 Lightning and Mustang Mach-E is off the charts,” Farley said. “But our ambition with Ford+ is to become a truly great, world-changing company again, and that requires focus. We are going all in, creating separate but complementary businesses that give us start-up speed and unbridled innovation in Ford Model e together with Ford Blue’s industrial know-how, volume and iconic brands like Bronco, that start-ups can only dream about.”

Driving the change was recognition that different approaches, talents and, ultimately, organizations are required to unleash Ford’s development and delivery of electric and digitally connected vehicles and services and fully capitalize on the company’s iconic family of internal combustion vehicles.

The creation of Ford Model e was informed by the success of small, mission-driven Ford teams that developed the Ford GT, Mustang Mach-E SUV and F-150 Lightning pickup as well as Ford’s dedicated EV division in China.

“Ford Model e will be Ford’s center of innovation and growth, a team of the world’s best software, electrical and automotive talent turned loose to create truly incredible electric vehicles and digital experiences for new generations of Ford customers,” Farley said.

“Ford Blue’s mission is to deliver a more profitable and vibrant ICE business, strengthen our successful and iconic vehicle families and earn greater loyalty by delivering incredible service and experiences. It’s about harnessing a century of hardware mastery to help build the future. This team will be hellbent on delivering leading quality, attacking waste in every corner of the business, maximizing cash flow and optimizing our industrial footprint.”

Ford Model e and Ford Blue will be run as distinct businesses, but also support each other – as well as Ford Pro, which is dedicated to delivering a one-stop shop for commercial and government customers with a range of conventional and electric vehicles and a full suite of software, charging, financing, services and support on Ford and non-Ford products. Ford Model e and Ford Blue will also support Ford Drive mobility.

Ford Model e will:

  • Attract and retain the best software, engineering, design and UX talent and perfect new technologies and concepts that can be applied across the Ford enterprise;
  • Embrace a clean-sheet approach to designing, launching and scaling breakthrough, high-volume electric and connected products and services for retail, commercial and shared mobility;
  • Develop the key technologies and capabilities – such as EV platforms, batteries, e-motors, inverters, charging and recycling – to create ground-up, breakthrough electric vehicles; and
  • Create the software platforms and fully networked vehicle architectures to support delightful, always-on and ever-improving vehicles and experiences.

Ford Model e also will lead on creating an exciting new shopping, buying and ownership experience for its future electric vehicle customers that includes simple, intuitive e-commerce platforms, transparent pricing and personalized customer support from Ford ambassadors. Ford Blue will adapt these best practices to enhance the experience of its ICE customers and deliver new levels of customer connectivity and satisfaction.

Ford Blue will exercise Ford’s deep automotive expertise to:

  • Strengthen the iconic Ford vehicles customers love, such as F-Series, Ranger and Maverick trucks, Bronco and Explorer SUVs, and Mustang, with investments in new models, derivatives, experiences and services;
  • Help customers fulfill their passions and daily lives with tailored brand and vehicle experiences, from off-roading to performance to family activities, especially for those situations when ICE capabilities are required;
  • Deliver new, connected, personalized and always-on experiences for customers powered by Ford Model e’s software and embedded systems;
  • Make industry-leading quality and exceptional service a reason to choose and stay with Ford;
  • Root out waste and dramatically reduce product, manufacturing and quality costs; and
  • Support Ford Model e and Ford Pro through proven, global-scale engineering, purchasing, manufacturing, and vehicle test and development capabilities for world-class safety, ride and handling, quiet and comfort, and durability.

Ford reaffirms guidance for 2022 of $11.5 billion to $12.5 billion in company adjusted EBIT. The high end of the range equates to a margin of 8% which, if achieved, would be one year earlier than the company’s previous target. With these changes announced today, Ford is raising its longer-term operating and financial targets, including:

  • Company adjusted EBIT margin of 10% by 2026, a 270-basis-point increase over 2021– driven by higher volumes, improvement in the cost of EVs, and a significant decline in ICE structural costs of up to $3 billion
  • More than 2 million electric vehicles produced annually by 2026, representing about one-third of Ford’s global volume, rising to half by 2030, capturing with EVs the same, or even greater, market shares in vehicle segments where Ford already leads
  • In addition, Ford expects to spend $5 billion on EVs in 2022, including capital expenditures, expense and direct investments, a two-fold increase over 2021

Ford reiterated its commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, and to use 100% local, renewable electricity in all of its manufacturing operations by 2035.

“This new structure will enhance our capacity to generate industry-leading growth, profitability and liquidity in this new era of transportation,” said John Lawler, Ford’s chief financial officer. “It will sharpen our effectiveness in allocating capital to both the ICE and EV businesses and the returns we expect from them – by making the most of existing capabilities, adding new skills wherever they’re needed, simplifying processes and lowering costs. Most importantly, we believe it will deliver growth and significant value for our stakeholders.”

Ford Model e and Ford Blue will work hand-in-glove with other parts of the Ford enterprise. Ford Pro will continue to deliver industry-leading products, services and support that commercial customers depend on. Served by Ford Model e and Ford Blue, Lincoln will continue to create compelling vehicles with an exceptional ownership experience to match. Ford Drive will continue to develop new digitally connected mobility businesses. And Ford Credit will continue to support the customer experience and drive loyalty with a full suite of financial products and services.

Leadership With the creation of Ford Blue and Ford Model e, Ford is announcing several leadership appointments. Farley will serve as president of Ford Model e, in addition to his role as president and CEO of Ford Motor Company.

Doug Field will lead Ford Model e’s product creation as chief EV and digital systems officer. He will also lead the development of software and embedded systems for all of Ford. Marin Gjaja will be Model e’s chief customer officer, heading the division’s go-to-market, customer experience and new business initiatives.

“Designing truly incredible electric and software-driven vehicles – with experiences customers can’t even imagine yet – requires a clean-sheet approach,” Field said. “We are creating an organization that benefits from all of Ford’s know-how and capabilities, but that can move with speed and unconstrained ambition to create revolutionary new products.”

Kumar Galhotra will serve as president of Ford Blue.

“Ford Blue’s mission is extremely ambitious,” Galhotra said. “We are going to invest in our incredible F-Series franchise, unleash the full potential of hits like Bronco and Maverick, and launch new vehicles like global Ranger pickup, Ranger Raptor and Raptor R. We’ll pair these great products with a simple, connected and convenient customer experience that earns higher loyalty. We are going to be hyper-competitive on costs and make quality a reason to choose Ford. And by doing all that, Ford Blue will be an engine of cash and profitability for the whole company.”

Stuart Rowley and Hau Thai-Tang will take on new global roles to support Ford’s transformation.

Rowley will be chief transformation and quality officer. He will establish quality as a reason to choose a Ford and lead Ford’s drive to improved efficiency, reduced complexity and a lean, fully competitive cost structure across the enterprise.

Thai-Tang will lead Ford’s industrial platform as chief industrial platform officer. He will lead product development, supply chain and manufacturing engineering for ICE products and common systems across Ford Blue, Ford Model e, Ford Pro and Ford Drive.

Biographies:

  • Ted Cannis, CEO, Ford Pro
  • Anning Chen, President and CEO, Ford China
  • Lisa Drake, Vice President, EV Industrialization, Ford Model e
  • Joy Falotico, President, Lincoln
  • Jim Farley, President and CEO, Ford
  • Doug Field, Chief EV and Digital Systems Officer, Ford Model e
  • Kumar Galhotra, President, Ford Blue
  • Marin Gjaja, Chief Customer Officer, Ford Model e
  • Marion Harris, President and CEO, Ford Motor Credit Company
  • John Lawler, Chief Financial Officer
  • Darren Palmer, Vice President, Electric Vehicle Programs, Ford Model e
  • Stuart Rowley, Chief Transformation & Quality Officer
  • Hau Thai-Tang, Chief Industrial Platform Officer

Ford News Conference  –  Wednesday, March 2, at 8 a.m. EST

Journalists and members of the investment community interested in asking questions should additionally dial in by phone.

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Pre-registration (not required, but will expedite login)

Conference ID: 9288331

Listen-only livestream and replay

The presentation and supporting material will be available at shareholder.ford.com .

Ford Capital Markets Call  –  Wednesday, March 2, at 9:15 a.m. EST

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Conference ID: 8872114

Listen-only webcast and replay

Cautionary Note on Forward-Looking Statements Statements included or incorporated by reference herein may constitute “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.  Forward-looking statements are based on expectations, forecasts, and assumptions by our management and involve a number of risks, uncertainties, and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those stated, including, without limitation:

  • Ford and Ford Credit’s financial condition and results of operations have been and may continue to be adversely affected by public health issues, including epidemics or pandemics such as COVID-19;
  • Ford is highly dependent on its suppliers to deliver components in accordance with Ford’s production schedule, and a shortage of key components, such as semiconductors, or raw materials can disrupt Ford’s production of vehicles;
  • Ford’s long-term competitiveness depends on the successful execution of Ford+;
  • Ford’s vehicles could be affected by defects that result in delays in new model launches, recall campaigns, or increased warranty costs;
  • Ford may not realize the anticipated benefits of existing or pending strategic alliances, joint ventures, acquisitions, divestitures, or new business strategies;
  • Operational systems, security systems, vehicles, and services could be affected by cyber incidents, ransomware attacks, and other disruptions;
  • Ford’s production, as well as Ford’s suppliers’ production, could be disrupted by labor issues, natural or man-made disasters, financial distress, production difficulties, capacity limitations, or other factors;
  • Ford’s ability to maintain a competitive cost structure could be affected by labor or other constraints;
  • Ford’s ability to attract and retain talented, diverse, and highly skilled employees is critical to its success and competitiveness;
  • Ford’s new and existing products, digital and physical services, and mobility services are subject to market acceptance and face significant competition from existing and new entrants in the automotive, mobility, and digital services industries;
  • Ford’s near-term results are dependent on sales of larger, more profitable vehicles, particularly in the United States;
  • With a global footprint, Ford’s results could be adversely affected by economic, geopolitical, protectionist trade policies, or other events, including tariffs;
  • Industry sales volume in any of Ford’s key markets can be volatile and could decline if there is a financial crisis, recession, or significant geopolitical event;
  • Ford may face increased price competition or a reduction in demand for its products resulting from industry excess capacity, currency fluctuations, competitive actions, or other factors;
  • Inflationary pressure and fluctuations in commodity prices, foreign currency exchange rates, interest rates, and market value of Ford or Ford Credit’s investments, including marketable securities, can have a significant effect on results;
  • Ford and Ford Credit’s access to debt, securitization, or derivative markets around the world at competitive rates or in sufficient amounts could be affected by credit rating downgrades, market volatility, market disruption, regulatory requirements, or other factors;
  • Ford’s receipt of government incentives could be subject to reduction, termination, or clawback;
  • Ford Credit could experience higher-than-expected credit losses, lower-than-anticipated residual values, or higher-than-expected return volumes for leased vehicles;
  • Economic and demographic experience for pension and other postretirement benefit plans (e.g., discount rates or investment returns) could be worse than Ford has assumed;
  • Pension and other postretirement liabilities could adversely affect Ford’s liquidity and financial condition;
  • Ford and Ford Credit could experience unusual or significant litigation, governmental investigations, or adverse publicity arising out of alleged defects in products, services, perceived environmental impacts, or otherwise;
  • Ford may need to substantially modify its product plans to comply with safety, emissions, fuel economy, autonomous vehicle, and other regulations;
  • Ford and Ford Credit could be affected by the continued development of more stringent privacy, data use, and data protection laws and regulations as well as consumers’ heightened expectations to safeguard their personal information; and
  • Ford Credit could be subject to new or increased credit regulations, consumer protection regulations, or other regulations.

We cannot be certain that any expectation, forecast, or assumption made in preparing forward-looking statements will prove accurate, or that any projection will be realized.  It is to be expected that there may be differences between projected and actual results.  Our forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of their initial issuance, and we do not undertake any obligation to update or revise publicly any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.  For additional discussion, see “Item 1A. Risk Factors” in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2021, as updated by subsequent Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q and Current Reports on Form 8-K.

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan, committed to helping build a better world, where every person is free to move and pursue their dreams.  The company’s Ford+ plan for growth and value creation combines existing strengths, new capabilities and always-on relationships with customers to enrich experiences for customers and deepen their loyalty.  Ford develops and delivers innovative, must-have Ford trucks, sport utility vehicles, commercial vans and cars and Lincoln luxury vehicles, along with connected services.  The company does that through three customer-centered business segments:  Ford Blue, engineering iconic gas-powered and hybrid vehicles; Ford Model e, inventing breakthrough EVs along with embedded software that defines exceptional digital experiences for all customers; and Ford Pro, helping commercial customers transform and expand their businesses with vehicles and services tailored to their needs.  Additionally, Ford provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company.  Ford employs about 177,000 people worldwide.  More information about the company and its products and services is available at corporate.ford.com.

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Profitable Business Models > Business models of large companies

Ford Motor Company History and Business Model Canvas: How Henry Ford Laid the Foundations for the Automobile Giant

  • by  Joanne Moyo
  • November 25, 2021

Is there anything more American than Ford? As the world’s fifth-largest automaker, this automobile giant is responsible for transforming the automobile industry, working life, and transportation in general.

At the end of 2020, the Ford Motor Company’s revenue was around $127 billion. It had a 13.9% market share in the U.S., trailing only second behind General Motors. It’s no secret that the Ford Motor Company is one of America’s iconic corporations. It’s one of the biggest companies to come out of America and is an excellent symbol of the much sought-after ‘American Dream.’

But how did Ford survive the Great Depression and two world wars? How could this corporation achieve such longevity? In this article, we take a look at the rich history and early business model canvas of one of the most well-known car makers in the world under the leadership of Henry Ford.

Ford Business Model Canvas Evolution and History

1896-1929: The Beginning of Ford Motor Company History

1863-1902: before ford motor company was formed.

Born in 1863, right after industrialization had changed the way people lived for good. Henry Ford was the first surviving son of William and Mary Ford, prosperous farmers who lived in Dearborn, Michigan.

He left home at 16 for Detroit, where he found employment as a machinist. After a few years, he returned home but continued to operate and service steam engines and worked occasional jobs in factories in Detroit.

In 1891, he returned to Detroit with his wife, Clara. He was hired as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company. He quickly rose through the ranks, and in 1893 he was promoted to chief engineer.

Clearly, Ford was no stranger to invention and automation. He was a product of the times and designed his first vehicle called the Quadricycle in 1896. It rode on four bicycle wheels and was powered by a four-horsepower pure ethanol engine.

The design was pretty primitive because instead of a steering wheel, the bicycle had a tiller. The gearbox had only two forward gears and no reverse option. Nevertheless, it was a pretty nifty invention.

1899-1901: The Detroit Automobile Company (the precursor to the Ford Motor Company)

Determined to improve upon his prototype, Ford resigned from the Edison Illuminating Company in August 1899 to start his own venture, the Detroit Automobile Company.

He sold the Quadricycle to fund the building of other vehicles. He persuaded some of his acquaintances and colleagues, including William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen, to come on board and finance the Detroit Automobile Company, later renamed the Henry Ford Company.

However, his partners were eager to put a passenger car on the market as soon as possible. They grew frustrated with Ford’s constant need to improve his vehicles. The tension rose to an all-time high as the company faced bankruptcy within 18 months from its inception. Ford left the company with the rights to the name and $900, it was then that he uttered for the first time his famous phrase:

“Failure is merely the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” With this guiding principle in mind, Ford regrouped and established the Ford and Motor Company in 1902.

Meanwhile, Murphy and Bowen regrouped and formed the Cadillac Motor Company in August 1902. 

1903-1906: Reorganizing and Forming the Ford Motor Company

Finding investors & partners.

To help finance his new company, Ford turned to an acquaintance named Alexander Y. Malcomson, a coal dealer. Malcomson forked out the money to start the partnership “Ford and Malcomson.” The two decided to design a car and began ordering parts from a manufacturing firm named John and Horace Dodge.

However, by February 1903, Ford and his partner Malcomson had spent more money than expected. The manufacturing firm they had hired to make parts was demanding payment. Malcomson didn’t have any more money to spare as he was spread thin already due to the demands of his coal business.

So Malcomson turned to his uncle John S. Gray. The latter was the president of the German-American Savings Bank and an extremely close friend. Malcolmson convinced him to invest in the upstart Ford Motor Company. Gray wasn’t interested at first, but Malcomson promised that he could withdraw his share at any time. Reluctantly, Gray agreed.

Malcomson proposed incorporating the Ford and Malcomson partnership to bring in more investors. Fortunately, Gray’s prominent reputation encouraged others to invest in the automaker too.

The new investors included lawyers John Anderson and Horace Rackham, local merchants Albert Strelow and Vernon Fry, Charles T. Bennett of the Daisy Air Rifle Company, and his own clerk James Couzens. Malcomson also convinced their manufacturing partners John and Horace Dodge to accept stock instead of payment.

Incorporating The Ford Motor Company and the birth of the Ford Model A Car

Finally, on 16 June 1903, the Ford Motor Company was incorporated, with 12 investors owning a total of 1000 shares. Ford and Malcomson were the biggest shareholders, retaining 51% of the new company. During the first stockholder meeting held two days later, Gray was elected president and Ford vice-president.

One of the new company’s investors, Albert Strelow, was the proud owner of a successful wooden factory building on Mack Avenue. He rented the factory out to the company so that operations could begin. Ford’s employees assembled automobiles from components made elsewhere by the Dodge Brothers’ manufacturing firm.

However, things were not so rosy. In fact, by the time the company sold the first Ford Model A car on 23 July 1903, almost all of the $28,000 cash investment was gone.

Nevertheless, this first order from a dentist named Ernst Pfenning was the signal of the many great things to follow. The car sold at $850, and within two months, the company had sold 215 Fords following successful print ad campaigns. The car appealed to many upper-middle-class professionals as well as the upper class.

The Model A was an instant hit for a couple of reasons. It could easily accommodate two people side-by-side on a bench, and it also had a four-seater option. The car had no top and was painted red.

Aside from the pleasing aesthetics, the car’s biggest selling point was the engine itself. It had two cylinders and eight-horsepower, which was the most powerful engine on a passenger car.

By the end of October, the Ford Motor Company had almost $37,000 in profit. The Mack Avenue plant they were operating from had produced close to 1,000 cars at the end of the year. Everyone wanted a piece of the action.

Ford’s Business Model Canvas: The Early Days

At this point, Ford’s Business Model Canvas looked like this:

Value Proposition

  • Quality cars with a powerful engine and space

Customer Segments

  • Upper-middle-class professionals
  • Upper class

Customer Relationships

  • Print media

Revenue streams

  • Selling cars

Key activities

  • Manufacturing and selling passenger cars
  • Looking for investors

Key resources

  • Money to invest in production

Key partners

  • Investors such as the Dodge Brothers
  • Steel suppliers

Cost structures

  • Manufacturing costs
  • Buying parts
  • Print Ad campaigns

henry ford business plan

1904-1912: Early Expansion, Some Internal Turmoil & Huge Success

In 1904, the Ford Motor Company expanded into Canada. However, it was not a subsidiary of the original company; instead, it was a separate organization with its own shareholders. The primary purpose of this enterprise was to expand not just in Canada but also across the British Empire.

The Canadian plant was based in Walkersville (now Windsor), Ontario, across the Detroit River from Ford’s existing facilities. In 1905, the automobile maker moved operations to a much larger facility on Piquette Avenue in Detroit’s Milwaukee Junction area.

However, things were not going well internally. There was a lot of friction regarding the governance and direction of the company. Moreover, most of the investors, including Gray and Malcomson, had their own businesses to attend to. So only Ford and Couzens were full-time employees of the company.

The tension escalated when the major shareholders Malcomson and Ford, disagreed over the company’s direction. Malcomson wanted the company to manufacture larger luxury cars. While they might sell fewer, he believed they would make a higher profit per car.

Ford was not a fan of the idea at all. Instead, he wanted the company to produce low-priced cars that targeted the mass market. He believed this would lead to greater sales and higher profits based on the volume produced. Malcomson, however, continued to push for big luxury cars and eventually won.

The Model B & Model K Cars: Complete Disappointment

So in 1905, Ford launched the Model B. It was the first four-cylinder car from Ford and the first to have the engine mounted upfront in the European manner. They priced it at $2,000, and it sold poorly.

The following year Ford launched an even more expensive car named the Model K. It was meant to replace the Model B. The Model K had six cylinders, and it cost $2,500. Once again the sales were extremely disappointing.

Following these launch disasters, Malcomson was frozen out of the Ford Motor Company in early 1906. In May, he sold his shares to Henry Ford. That same year John S. Gray died suddenly, leaving Ford holding the reins of the company.

The Model N

Now in control, Ford set out accomplishing his vision. He stated that “…the greatest need today is a light, low-priced car with an up-to-date engine with ample horsepower, and built of the very best material.… It must be powerful enough for American roads and capable of carrying its passengers anywhere that a horse-drawn vehicle will go. ”

And that’s what the Ford Model N was. Introduced in 1906, the Model N was immediately popular among middle-class Americans. It was fast and rugged with four cylinders and a shaft drive, plus at $500, it was very affordable. By the end of the year, the Model N had become the best-selling car in America.

Ford’s goal of allowing the average American to own and enjoy a car was well underway. However, he hadn’t forgotten about his upper-middle and upper-class clients. He followed the Model N with fancier Models R and S in 1907, selling at $780.

That same year Ford introduced their new logo. It had been designed by an engineer named Childe Harold Wills, who was one of the first employees to join the company. The logo made its first appearance in a print ad for the Model R with the slogan ‘Watch the Fords Go By.’ The campaign and the logo resulted in a 35% market share increase for Ford.

1908-1912: The Model T Ford’s Biggest Success

The following year Ford opened its first overseas branch in Paris. While Henry was focused on expanding into Europe, he was also dealing with a few problems back home.

You see, the U.S. had only about 18,000 miles of paved roads; the rest were primitive at best and downright un-drivable at worst, especially in bad weather. He used light and strong vanadium steel alloy for critical parts to ensure that his cars could handle the strain.

And while the Model N was aimed at the mass market, it was still beyond the reach of the average American, especially those with families. In fact, most of the automobiles in existence were luxurious novelties that fit two to four people rather than affordable transport.

Henry realized that he needed to improve his designs, ensuring that his vehicles were reliable and easy to maintain for the millions of new drivers he intended to capture. The business model was simple but effective. He wanted to build quality cars that could out-perform vehicles from the competition.

The cars had to be rugged enough to drive over largely unpaved roads and easier to maintain and service than other cars. So in September 1908, he launched the Model T; it was an affordable car that was big enough for families. The car included several technical innovations that made it lightweight, rugged, and inexpensive compared to other cars of its size.

The Model T was so sought after that it strained Ford’s production capacity. The car was so successful that Ford did not purchase any form of advertising between 1917 and 1923. Barely six months after the car’s debut, the company had to stop taking new orders until it could catch up with those already placed.

To counteract the problem, Ford purchased a piece of land and began constructing a new factory in Highland Park, Detroit. The factory had facilities for machining, stamping, casting, assembling, and shipping. The plant opened in 1910, becoming the second production facility for the Model T.

The Model T was not only for town dwellers; it appealed to and proved particularly beneficial for farm families. While those in the city had plenty of access to streetcars, railroads, bicycles, and paved roads, farmers were limited to the distance his horse or feet could travel.

The affordable Model T, with its sturdy construction and durability, ended that isolation for good. By the end of 1911, the Ford Motor Company had a whopping 25,000 employees producing as many Model T cars as possible.

1913: The Assembly Line

While the new factory did help to ease some of the production delays, it was not enough. The production process up to this point was chaotic and expensive. Each car chassis was propped up on a sawhorse, and different teams of skilled workers would move from one car to the next, installing parts as they went.

This meant that every part needed a highly-skilled craftsman who could put together certain components of complex machines. So it took an insanely long time for one car to be completed and sometimes there were standardization issues.

Clearly, the old method of assembling parts by hand was no longer sufficient. Henry realized that he needed to find a way to mass-produce the insanely popular Model T.

He tasked Ford engineers with the task, and they set out to find a workable solution. They studied various techniques and processes in other industries, eventually landing on meatpackers who used moving disassembly lines. Conveyors moved carcasses past meat cutters, who then sliced off multiple pieces of the animal.

While it was an unusual source of inspiration, it was what Ford needed. So in 1913, they adapted this technique to their factories, developing the moving assembly line in stages. They started at the magnetos (the generators that produce electricity for the spark plugs) sections.

Each worker on the line was responsible for one part, shoving the flywheel onto the next employee, who would then add the next part and so on. This 1913 assembly line was relatively crude — workers pushed or pulled vehicles to each station.

Once they saw that the idea worked, the engineers applied the concept to more complex items like transmissions and engines.

This new system cut production times from 12 ½ hours to just 2 hours and 40 minutes and allowed Ford to keep costs low. It was at this point that Ford severed its manufacturing relationship with the Dodge brothers. The company could now make and assemble all the parts they needed within their own factories.

The Dodge brothers then decided to start their own automobile company, Dodge Brothers Motor Company, beginning a rivalry that would intensify during the next few years. 

Consolidating the Production Process

Ford didn’t stop at the assembly process. He realized that to streamline the whole production process he needed to diversify the company’s business interests. He purchased several village industries to gain better control over oversupply.

This meant that the Ford Motor Company was now in complete control of all the means of production. The company became its own supply line, acquiring energy resources, raw materials, and transportation assets necessary to support the entire business. Ford was no longer reliant on suppliers who could spike their prices without warning.

Ford’s Business Model Canvas: The Stabilization Days

  • Affordable, reliable passenger car for mass market
  • Exclusive luxury cars
  • Mass market (including lower middle class and farmers)
  • Middle and Upper class
  • Selling affordable cars
  • Selling luxury cars
  • Manufacturing and selling cars
  • Expansion and construction of manufacturing plants
  • Research and Development
  • Employees (especially the engineers who developed the assembly line)
  • Advertising campaigns
  • Expansion of factories
  • Steel and car parts

henry ford business plan

1914-1929: Expansion and Fighting for Dominance

Competition with dodge, shareholder, and employee issues.

While the assembly line was an excellent system for productivity and profits, it reduced highly skilled workers into part of a machine. Many of them found themselves working on a single, routine task every day, all day.

By the beginning of 1914, the employee turnover rate was 380%. So in January, Henry announced that he would pay his workers $5 for an eight-hour day, 5-day workweek, thereby introducing the idea of a “weekend”. This was the first time the concept of giving workers a break from work was implemented and it was a big deal.

The weekend perk and the more than double rate (which was $2.34 before) was too good a deal to pass for most workers. This strategy worked, and sales increased mainly because his line workers could now afford to buy a Model T with less than four months’ pay.

Meanwhile, the Dodge Brothers Motor Company launched their own car, the Model 30-35. This car was intended to compete directly with the Model T.

Henry did not like that his former partners were hot on his trail, so he decided to take down the competition.

He stopped paying dividends to the Dodge brothers, who still had a 10% stake in Ford Motor Company. The Dodge Brothers sued Ford. Henry claimed that he was using the money meant to pay out the dividends to improve his worker’s wages. The court did not accept his explanation and ordered him to pay his investors the dividends owed to them.

Henry’s next move was to slash the price of his cars by two-thirds; he also created a system of franchised dealers who were loyal to his brand name.

Ford and WWI

When World War I started, the whole automobile industry was heavily affected. At first, Henry was heavily against the war and even commissioned a ship in 1915 to go to Norway to try and convince European officials to stop the war.

When the mission failed, he realized that he had no choice but to try and support the war effort when American entered the conflict in 1917. From the spring of 1917 through to autumn 1918, Ford factories supported the war effort by producing war boats, cannons, military trucks, and many other war products.

The Model T design was so good that it served as the foundation for war ambulances, trucks, and service vehicles manufactured during the war. It could traverse the war-torn environment, could maneuver easily, ensuring that medical professionals could tend to the wounded quicker than ever before.

The company also committed to research and development work on various armor technologies for vehicles and soldiers.

1918-1929: Resuming Normal Activities

As soon as the war ended, Ford resumed production of their Model T. However the company was still facing challenges with the Dodge brothers. Ford had begun construction of a massive industrial complex situated along the banks of the River Rouge in Dearborn, Michigan.

The factory combined all the components necessary for auto production, including a glass factory, steel mill, and assembly line. Sensing the threat to their own business and dividend payout, the Dodge brothers and the other shareholders resisted the idea due to its enormous costs.

Henry became determined to buy out the remaining shareholders. He installed his son Edsel as president of the Ford Motor Company. He threatened to leave to set up a rival company. The news spread, driving down the share value of the company. Thankfully, the idea worked, and Henry bought out all the minority shareholders, including the Dodge brothers, for $125 million by 1920.

Meanwhile, Ford factories opened up everywhere, in Ireland, England, and France, in 1917. Denmark, Germany, Austria, and Argentina followed a few years later, and by 1925 there were factories in Japan, South Africa, and Australia.

In 1922, Ford purchased the Lincoln Motor Company as a move towards the luxury auto market. By the end of the 1920s, Ford was producing 50% of the cars in the U.S. and 40% of all British ones.

1927-1929: Losing Market Share

However, the success of the Model T proved to be its undoing. While it was touted as the universal car, Ford kept producing the same car for 19 years without significant design or engineering changes.

What was considered state-of-the-art in 1908 was, of course, outdated two decades later. Realizing that the Model T’s run was ending, Edsel and Henry Ford drove the fifteen-millionth Model T out of Highland Park Plant in May 1927. This marked an end to the Model T production.

Ford was slowly losing market share to General Motors and Chrysler, among other competitors offering more innovative features and luxury options. General Motors, for example, had cars that ranged from affordable to luxury, tapping into a broader customer segment spectrum.

The Model T was now relegated to lower-middle and middle-class individuals who purchased used Model Ts. Those with the money for new Model Ts preferred to buy from G.M. and Chrysler. Additionally, G.M. and other competitors started allowing credit purchases with monthly payment options.

Initially, Ford resisted this approach, fearing that such debts would hurt their bottom line and the economy. However, seeing how much their competitors benefited from such payment arrangements, Ford started offering credit purchases in December 1927.

1930-1947: Surviving the Great Depression, Competition and Controversy

Ford and the soviet union.

Itching for the next successful venture, Henry inked a deal in late 1929 with the Soviet Union. The country purchased $13 million worth of parts and automobiles. In return, Ford agreed to give the Soviet Union technical assistance until 1938. Many Americans relocated to the Soviet Union to work on constructing the Ford plants and their production lines.

These Soviet factories produced the German model of the Ford Model A passenger car named the GAZ-A and a light truck called the GAZ-AA. Both models were used by the military. 

The Great Depression and Rising from the Ashes

When the Great Depression began in 1930, no business was spared, including Ford. They had to lay off workers and scale back production. Henry committed to helping a small number of families with loans and parcels of land to work.

However, he angered many by suggesting that the unemployed should do more to find their own work. In response to his statements, angered workers and members of a society organized the Ford Hunger March on 7 March 1932.

At least 5,000 unemployed workers marched to Ford’s River Rouge plant to deliver a petition demanding more support. Unfortunately, the protest became violent, and five men died, with sixty more seriously injured.

Despite the relative success of the Model A, it proved to be a disappointment. It was outsold by General Motors’ Chevrolet and Chrysler’s Plymouth passenger vehicles. Ford had used an old-fashioned, personalized management system and neglected consumer demand for improved cars. By 1931 Ford had discontinued the Model A.

The 1930s were a tough time for the Ford Motor Company. They were struggling to maintain dominance amid the rise of better cars by competitors and the effects of the Great Depression. To add to the company’s woes, Ford became engaged in a long battle against labor unionization.

Henry was refusing to come to terms with the rise of the United Automobile Workers (UAW) even as competitors did. Things became heated in 1937 when Ford security staff clashed with UAW members. Ford was ordered to stop interfering with the union organization by the National Labor Relations Board.  

Ford and WWII

As with the First World War, Henry refused to participate in the war. He was still an advocate for peace, and while the U.S. remained neutral, Ford focused on its usual operations. The company was hesitant to participate in the Allied military effort.

Additionally, Ford had a subsidiary in Germany and was eager to keep the German business running. He had a close relationship with Germany before the war. This relationship kept Ford factories in Germany relatively safe when many foreign-owned factories were taken over by the Nazi Government. Ford kept 52% of his ownership, though with no control or financial gain.

The Ford factories in Germany were a significant part of building up the German Armed Forces. However, it was Pearl Harbour that led to the company contributing hugely to the war effort. After the war, the Treasury Department investigated Ford for collaboration with the German-run Ford plants in occupied France. They did not find conclusive evidence.

1943-1947: A Desperate Set of Circumstances

In 1943, Edsel Ford died of stomach cancer, and Henry decided to resume direct control of the company. Still, he was 78 years old and suffering from heart problems and atherosclerosis. Additionally, his mental state and decision-making capabilities were questionable; there was a genuine possibility that the company would crumble if he died or became incapacitated.

As the Ford company had become a big part of the American economy and the war effort, the Roosevelt Administration came up with a contingency plan to nationalize Ford should the need arise. At this point, Ford’s daughter-in-law and wife intervened by demanding that Henry turn control over to his grandson Henry Ford II.

Henry resisted the idea, and the women threatened to sell off their stock which would amount to half its total shares if he refused. Infuriated, Henry had no choice and finally agreed to allow Henry II to assume command of the Ford Motor Company in 1945. When Henry II took over, the company was losing US$9 million a month and incomplete financial chaos.

Henry Ford died on 7 April 1947, and Henry II took over as Chairman and CEO. Henry Ford II reorganized the company’s tangled system of financial management. He managed to revamp its corporate culture by hiring talented younger managers such as Robert McNamara.

Ford’s Business Model Canvas: The Dominance Days

  • Quality affordable cars for the average individual
  • Military vehicles and other war products
  • The mass market
  • Wealthy individuals
  • The U.S. government, Allied forces, and other governments (Soviet Union)
  • Print Media
  • Manufacturing military vehicles and other products
  • Making military cars, trucks, boats, and parts
  • Research and development of armor technologies
  • Construction of bigger manufacturing plants
  • Expansion into Europe, Australia, and Africa
  • Manufacturing Plants
  • Global brand
  • Franchised car dealers
  • Governments such as Germany, the U.S., and the Soviet Union
  • Global Network of distributors and manufacturers
  • Manufacturing of war products and cars

henry ford business plan

Henry Ford led his company through two world wars, a great depression, and a rapidly growing economy. While some decisions were late and ill-advised, he managed to keep his company profitable throughout different economic seasons.

The adaptability and innovation it took to keep such a big company running is extraordinary.  There are a few lessons we can learn from Henry Ford, but the most important should be: “ Failure is merely the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

  • https://corporate.ford.com/about/history/company-timeline.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Ford_Motor_Company#cite_note-ind-2
  • https://www.statista.com/topics/1886/ford/#topicHeader__wrapper
  • https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ford-motor-company-incorporated
  • https://www.history.com/topics/inventions/henry-ford
  • https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ford-Motor-Company/Reorganization-and-expansion
  • https://www.osv.ltd.uk/brief-history-of-ford/
  • https://auto.howstuffworks.com/henry-ford-vs-dodge-brothers-all-american-feud.htm
  • https://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z7477/ford-model-r.aspx
  • https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/putting-the-world-on-wheels-the-ford-model-t-the-henry-ford/pAIiixLJtc1HLw?hl=en
  • https://ss.sites.mtu.edu/mhugl/2015/10/12/henry-ford/
  • https://www.npr.org/2014/01/27/267145552/the-middle-class-took-off-100-years-ago-thanks-to-henry-ford
  • Tags: automotive , cars , ford , henry ford , usa , world war

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Henry ford health lays out funding plan for expansion at jpmorgan conference.

Dustin Walsh

Dustin Walsh is a senior reporter for Crain’s Detroit Business, covering health care with a focus on industry change and operations, as well as the state's emerging cannabis industry. He is also a regular columnist on all things health, labor, economics and more.

New Henry Ford Hospital Renderin-03_i.jpg

Henry Ford Health plans to spend $4.9 billion over the next decade to fund its massive expansion efforts throughout Southeast Michigan.

The Detroit health system laid out its funding vision Tuesday at the 42nd annual JPMorgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, according to multiple reports. The conference is one of the nation's premier health care business events.

Henry Ford Health’s plans include funding the merger of Ascension Health Michigan into a new joint venture with HFH that includes eight Ascension hospitals in Southeast Michigan for a total of 13 hospitals in the region and roughly 50,000 employees. 

It announced in February a $3 billion plan to build a new hospital tower and other developments near its existing flagship hospital in West Grand Boulevard in Detroit along with a top-rated rehabilitation hospital run by Shirley Ryan AbilityLab of Chicago. The rehab facility is being funded by $375 million from the Gilbert Family Foundation. 

The system will break ground in the new hospital this year with a completion date in 2029.

The $4.9 billion in capital expenditures will be funded primarily by operational revenue. The breakdown is such: 66% of the expenditures will come from operations; 9%, or more than $500 million, will come from philanthropy; 10%, or as much as $400 million, from new debt; and 7%, or about $265 million, from federal energy subsidies. CEO Bob Riney has said the new hospital is expected to be emission-free with its own dedicated electric power plant. 

The source for the remaining 8%, or about $300 million, is yet to be determined, Robin Damschroder, Henry Ford CFO and business development officer, told the conference attendees, according to a report by Fierce Healthcare . 

In addition, regulators in August approved a joint venture between HFH’s insurance arm—Health Alliance Plan—and CareSource, an Ohio-based managed care health plan with members in seven states. The joint venture should help Henry Ford win a bid for a request for proposal from the Michigan Health and Human Services Department for Michigan’s Medicaid managed care contract, Riney said at the event according to reporting by Modern Healthcare .

“We have a plan that is ambitious, deliverable and consistent with our diversification of what a health system needs to be,” Riney told attendees, according to Fierce reporting. “So, focused on vulnerable populations and population health, focused on tertiary and quaternary destination care, and also focused on the part of the economic vitality — because you can’t have population health without community health, and that includes economic health. We take our role in a very broad view, and we plan on continuing to deliver on that.”

Crain's sibling publication Modern Healthcare contributed to this report.

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Henry Ford Health project raises hopes in New Center for 'yet more development'

henry ford business plan

Detroit — As Henry Ford Health plans a $2.5 billion investment in Detroit’s New Center area, experts say it will revitalize an area that has yet to see the turnaround the city’s downtown has experienced.

“It adds density to that particular geographical area,” said Alex Calderone, managing director of the Calderone Advisory Group in Birmingham. “And the hope would be that this will be a catalyst for yet more development in the future. And the region is coming alive. There's a lot of activity here.”

Henry Ford Health announced Wednesday its pursuit of the $2.5 billion development plan with the Detroit Pistons, team owner Tom Gores and Michigan State University. Among the plans are a new $1.8 billion hospital near the existing Henry Ford Hospital as well as residential, commercial and, potentially, hotel space.

New Center is home to the Fisher Building, which has undergone at least $30 million in renovations and Cadillac Place, which struggles with a decreased state and private workforce presence in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Calderone said the development is in a prime location for expansion and near a major artery, the Lodge Freeway. It will build on the health system's development of the Henry Ford Pistons Performance Center on Second Avenue, which was completed in 2019.

“I think there's already some degree of momentum generated as a result of that,” he said. “And I think overall it creates density in an area that is in need of a rebuild. And the hope is that there is a snowballing effect. And now that you have this development going up, you can keep building on all four corners in all directions."

Steve Morris, the managing principal of Axis Advisors LLC, a commercial real estate service, said Henry Ford Health’s plans will fit well with the work that The Platform has done to increase office and residential tenants in the area with the Fisher Building renovations and developments such as an apartment complex, The Boulevard at 2911 W. Grand Boulevard, completed in 2019.

“It's just a nice complementary, wonderful opportunity to provide an area for additional living,” he said. “The fact that it's the hospital, certainly a medical center for people to come from all parts of the country for education. It expands the walkability and the urban mobility and the lifestyle in the greater New Center area.”

Not all were happy to hear the announcement Wednesday.

The Rev. Charles Williams II pastors the Historic King Solomon Baptist Church on 14th Street. He said he questions why he wasn’t aware of the plans before the announcement on Wednesday.

“If there’s no communication, how can we have trust?” Williams said. “This is going to affect my community whether it’s the trucks that have to go up and down the streets with the development, whether it’s the new traffic that it brings, whether it’s the people that get displaced. It’s going to affect the church. It’s going to affect the community. The community deserves the dignity and respect from the Pistons and from Henry Ford Hospital and from Michigan State University to at least say, can we have a conversation? Let us talk about our vision.”

A block from the main Henry Ford Hospital, Christian Key, 57, recently opened a storefront for Lucki’s Gourmet Cheesecakes on W. Grand Boulevard. He said the location near the hospital was a prime place for the 18-year-old business, which also has a storefront on McNichols.

“This is a good spot,” said Key, who grew up in the area. “It’s growing up. The community is being revitalized. … They’re talking about a10-year project on a hospital expansion with possible residential and retail. I’m like, that all works good. It’s better for the community.”

Erica Enakar, 27, who lives a couple of blocks from the hospital, said she’s looking forward to the development. She said in recent years there have been more people moving into the neighborhood. She noted the expansion of the Motown Museum on W. Grand Boulevard.

“It’s exciting to be in this neighborhood,” Enakar said while out for a walk with her 3-year-old Bernedoodle named Mosa.

While Enakar said she isn’t surprised that Henry Ford Health is expanding in the area, the amount of the investment impresses her.

“$2.5 billion to invest in a part of the city is a lot,” she said. “That part is surprising, but they’ve already invested so much that I’m not really surprised that they’re going to keep going."

Enakar said the investment has her and her neighbors talking about how it could boost their property values and give them more access to shopping without having to drive west to Dearborn.

"As my husband and I start to talk about having kids, one of the things we think about are what are the resources in the area for entertainment or for shopping or schools and all that kind of stuff," she said. "It is really reassuring to see more investment happening in the area that we’re living in.”

[email protected]

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN

Plans moving forward for $3B collab of Henry Ford Health, Pistons, MSU

henry ford business plan

Plans are moving forward for a series of proposed new buildings and redevelopments in Detroit's New Center area that would involve Henry Ford Health, Michigan State University and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores.

The Pistons organization announced Monday that the first community benefits public meeting for the proposed projects, which are being packaged together as one $3 billion development, is scheduled for next Tuesday.

Detroit requires a Community Benefits process for large projects seeking significant tax abatements or other subsidies. The process typically ends with developers agreeing to concessions and gifts for residents and groups situated near a project.

The development, first announced in February, calls for:

  • A 1-million-square-foot expansion to Henry Ford Hospital, including a new tower along West Grand Boulevard (height still to be determined). The expansion would include a new 72-bed rehab center for conditions such as strokes, to be managed by the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, where Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert underwent treatment after his 2019 stroke. Construction is to start next year and conclude by 2029.
  • A new joint medical research center with Henry Ford Health and MSU. The center also would house the future Nick Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Research Institute. Construction is to start next year and finish in 2027.
  • Development of more than 500 units of mixed-income housing by the Gores and Pistons organizations. This housing push would fully convert Henry Ford Health's existing headquarters office building — 1 Ford Place — into new apartments and some retail, plus construct a new nearby residential building.
  • A new 800-space parking structure.

The specific tax abatements and incentives being sought for the various projects have yet to be shared. A Pistons spokesman said those details will emerge later during the Community Benefits process.

More: New and upscale Perennial Corktown apartments and townhomes opening soon in Detroit

More: Clock ticking on state funding for proposed U-M Center for Innovation in Detroit

Although only the housing and research sides of the $3 billion development will be seeking incentives, according to Antoine Bryant, Detroit's director of Planning and Development, "the developers have made a commitment to have the community benefits span the entire project."

The total development costs were originally projected at $2.5 billion, but grew in size with the announcement this month that Dan Gilbert and his wife, Jennifer, are donating $375 million toward costs of the new 72-bed rehab center and the Nick Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Research Institute.

Nick Gilbert died in May at age 26 after suffering from neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerve pathways in the body.

The Henry Ford Hospital expansion will include a new emergency department, surgical suites, cafeteria and lobby in addition to the planned tower. The height of the tower hasn't been announced, but is expected to rival the Fisher Building. Three floors in the tower would house the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.

The tower would be built across from the existing hospital along West Grand Boulevard, on land occupied by an office building for the health insurance company the Henry Ford Health owns — Health Alliance Plan — that would be torn down. The expansion will not add to the total number of 877 beds at the hospital.

The joint Henry Ford Health-MSU research center would be built along Third Avenue, across from the Pistons Performance Center and William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine building, on what is currently a parking lot for 1 Ford Place.

“I have always viewed the Pistons as a community asset,” Gores said in a statement Monday. “When wemoved downtown, we had an ambitious agenda for using our platform to bring people together to effect change. We’ve worked hard to deliver on that promise and more, and then continued seeking new ways to be impactful.

"This development presents a new opportunity to accelerate growth and contribute to the revitalization of the city. We’re excited to work with our partners and the community we serve to transform our shared neighborhood.”

The first Community Benefits meeting is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 3 at University Prep Academy High School-Ed Parks Campus, 610 Antoinette St.

The last Community Benefits process in Detroit concerned the $1.5 billion District Detroit development. That process concluded with a benefits agreement that called for about $12 million in new, direct financial contributions from the developers to the community and just over $100 million in specially targeted spending out of the project's budget.

Some of the items included $1 million for renovations to the Cass Tech football field, a $500,000 commitment to buy artwork from local Black and Hispanic artists for display in District Detroit and a requirement to accept Section 8 vouchers for 20% of the development's 695 apartments.

Contact JC Reindl: 313-222-6631 or  [email protected] . Follow him on X @ jcreindl .

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Legal & Regulatory Issues

Henry ford health gets initial approval for $5m retirement plan settlement.

Detroit-based Henry Ford Health has secured preliminary approval from District Judge Sean Cox of Eastern District of Michigan to contribute $5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit by employees who alleged their retirement plans were too costly compared to other similar, lower-cost investment options. 

"We are pleased to have reached a fair resolution in this case, and we look forward to providing the agreed-upon and equitable compensation to our team members who were involved," a spokesperson for Henry Ford Health said in a statement shared with Becker's .

The class-action lawsuit was originally filed by four plaintiffs on May 5, 2021, against the health system, its board of directors and its investment committee. 

It alleges the health system violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 , which sets minimum standards for the majority of private industry, voluntarily established health and retirement plans to ensure individuals' protection. 

The preliminary motion for the settlement approval, obtained by Becker's , reveals that the $5 million contribution will be dispersed to the more than 27,926 individuals who were part of the lawsuit.

The health system originally agreed to pay the sum last December, when a notice of agreement was filed on Dec. 11, which required court approval, Pensions & Investments reported Dec. 15. 

"The Settlement provides monetary consideration to current and former plan participants," the motion said.

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