History of Ford

Ford imageSince the company's founding in 1903, the name Ford has been synonymous with the automotive industry. Company founder Henry Ford Sr. became known for innovation, transforming cars into commodities for the masses and his company into an American icon. Below, selected milestones from the company's history:June 16, 1903: Henry Ford and 11 investors sign articles of incorporation for Ford Motor Company in Michigan. Oct. 1, 1908: Ford introduces the Model T, which became one of the most popular cars in the world. Production officially ended in May 1927 after total world production of 15,458,781.

After 20 years of experimentation, Henry Ford finally saw the fruits of his labor in October 1908, with the introduction of the Model T.

Putting the World on WheelsIn simple terms, the Model T changed the world. It was a powerful car with a possible speed of 45 mph. It could run 25 miles on a gallon of gasoline. It carried a 20-horsepower, side-valve four-cylinder engine and two-speed planetary transmission on a 100-inch wheelbase. Important to the long-term success of the Model T was Childe Harold Wills' experimentation with the properties of vanadium steel, which resulted in the lightness and durability that was an important trademark of the Model T.Mass Production BeginsIn October 1913, mass production of the Model T began at Ford's Highland Park, Michigan, Assembly Plant. Henry Ford had previously organized men and components to enhance Model T production, but the moving assembly line quickly improved chassis assembly speed from 12 hours and eight minutes to one hour and 33 minutes.In 1914, Ford produced 308,162 cars, more than all other automakers combined. It was also in 1914 that the Model T, in the interest of streamlining production, was no longer available in red, blue, green or gray; it was now available in "any color so long as it is black." Mass production did, however, allow for flexibility in the price tag. Introduced at $825 (for the Runabout), the Model T's price dipped as low as $260 in October 1924.

Changing Times

Few things other than the price tag ever changed on the Model T: Electric lights were introduced in 1915, the radiator shell went from brass to black in 1916, and in 1919 an electric starter became an option on the closed cars. These would be the only modifications until the mid-1920s, when Henry Ford gave in to pressures to modernize the car and began experimenting with a series of changes.

End of an Era

The changes, though, were not enough to keep the Model T competitive, and Henry Ford finally decided it was time to cease production. After producing more than 15 million Model Tís, the assembly line stopped in May 1927. Five months later, on October 27, Ford Motor Company entered a new era as the first Model A rolled off the line at the Rouge Assembly Plant in Dearborn, Mich.

Global Recognition

As the 20th century drew to a close, the Model T's global significance was formally recognized and honored. An international jury of automotive journalists and other experts elected the Ford Model T as the winner of the coveted Car of the Century award. The Ford Model T was selected for the significant innovation it represented in its day, as well as its design and its impact on both the auto industry and society itself.

As of 2008, 100 years after Ford Motor Company's Model T changed the world by making personal transportation affordable, the Tin Lizzie is still regarded as a major influence in human history.

Oct. 7, 1913: The Highland Park plant in Michigan begins operations as the first moving automobile assembly line in the world.

Jan. 5, 1914: Ford begins offering $5 per day for eight-hour work days and 15,000 job seekers clamor for 3,000 jobs at the Model T Plant in Highland Park. The previous pay rate was $2.34 per day for nine hours.

March 1, 1941: Ford begins to produce general-purpose "jeeps" for the U.S. military and shifts completely to military production starting in Feb. 1942. Civilian production does not resume until July 1945.

Jan. 17, 1956: Ford common stock goes on sale, with 10.2 million shares sold in the first day, representing 22 percent of the company.

Sept. 7, 1987: Ford acquires 75 percent of Aston Martin Lagonda, Ltd.

Dec. 31, 1988: Ford's worldwide earnings were $5.3 billion, the highest of any auto company to date.

Dec. 1, 1989: Ford spends $2.5 billion to buy Jaguar Cars.

March 15, 1990: Ford introduces the Explorer sport utility vehicle. Though the Explorer is the nation's best-selling SUV model, sales hit a 15-year low in Nov. 2005 and fell 29 percent for 2005.

July 1, 1992: Ford buys 50 percent of Mazda Motor Manufacturing and changes that company's name to AutoAlliance International.

June 20, 1993: Ford opens its first dealerships in China. Its brand sales in China increased 46 percent in 2005, though it still lags behind General Motors Corp. and Germany's Volkwagen AG in China. By the end of 2005, the number of Ford dealers in China totaled 150, up from 100 in 2004.

April 18, 1993: Ford begins production of the Flexible-Fuel Vehicle (FFV) Taurus. FFVs can burn gasoline, ethanol or mixtures of the two. Despite the fact that there are an estimated 5 million FFVs, there are only about 500 ethanol fuel stations in the country. According to the law, if automakers produce FFVs, they can also produce more of other cars that consume more gas.

Aug. 21, 1997: Ford sells the first taxicabs run on natural gas to New York City.

August 2000: Bridgestone/Firestone recalls 6.5 million tires after 271 rollover deaths in Ford Explorers.

May 2001: Ford Motor unilaterally recalls 13 million more tires and Bridgestone/Firestone dumps Ford as a customer, saying Ford was using the tire maker as a scapegoat to deflect attention from problems with the Ford Explorer. Federal investigators ultimately concluded that tire defects were the main cause of the rollovers.

July 11, 2005: Ford's new gas-electric hybrid SUV, the Mercury Mariner, goes on sale. It costs $4,000 more than the gas-only version and has the endorsement of the Sierra Club.

Nov. 1, 2005: Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire LLC agrees to pay Ford $240 million to help cover the costs of the tire recalls, which amounted to $2 billion.

Dec. 22, 2005: The United Auto Workers agrees to a deal with Ford in which 99 cents an hour of any future wage increases will go towards a health-care fund. Insurance deductibles will rise by as much as 33 percent, and the costs for current retirees will also go up. The changes will save Ford about $650 million a year. (Ford's health-care bill for 2005 was $3.5 billion.)

Dec. 23, 2005: Ford announces it will transfer $2 billion to shore up Jaguar Cars, which it bought in 1989 for almost $3 billion in today's prices. 2005: Ford loses market share for the 10th year in a row, and also loses its place as America's best-selling brand to GM's Chevrolet. Ford sold around 2.9 million vehicles in 2005 for a 17.4 percent market share -- down from a market share of 18.3 percent in 2004 and of 24 percent in 1990.

Jan. 23, 2006: Ford announces it will cut up to 30,000 jobs and idle 14 plants by the year 2012.

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