Ford Motor Company is one of the “big three” American automakers that are based in and around Detroit, Michigan. Founded in 1903 by Henry Ford (with financial support from backers that included the Dodge brothers), Ford is now the second largest automaker in the United States as well as the fifth largest in the whole world. Over the years, Ford has obtained small stakes in automakers like Mazda and Aston Martin and purchased other automakers like Jaguar, Landrover, and Volvo (which it sold in 1989, 2000, and 2010.) Today, Ford has operations all over the world, including North America, Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, and the Middle East. In Europe, Ford is the fifth largest Automaker.
History of the Ford Motor Company
The Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903 by Henry Ford. Prior to that, Ford had founded the Henry Ford Company, which he left in 1902. Unlike August Horch, founder of Audi, Ford had the foresight to retain the rights to his name, so the Henry Ford Company became the Cadillac Motor Company upon his departure. Cadillac would later be purchased by the newly-formed General Motors and remains a major tentpole of that company’s lineup up through the present day.
Henry Ford aimed to make his automobiles affordable, and to that end he made great strides towards implementing and refining both the assembly line process and the vertical integration of component part productions. Although he invented neither the automobile nor the assembly line, modern automobile production techniques can be traced back to the early days of the Ford Motor Company. For instance, Ford’s “moving assembly line” innovation reduced the assembly time of a Model T from over 12 hours to under 2 hours.
Although Ford first expanded internationally in 1904 with the establishment of Ford of Canada, it first extended its reach overseas in 1911. By 1925, the company had operations in Europe, Africa, South America, and Australia. During this period, the Model T also served as the platform that many Allied military vehicles were built on, including both tanks and ambulances.
In 1922, Ford established the Lincoln division, which persists into the present day. While Fords were seen as workmanlike, affordable vehicles, Lincoln was established to compete with upmarket brands like Cadillac, which by that time was already serving as GM’s luxury brand. Ford would later also establish Mercury to serve as an entry-level brand, although that division was eventually dissolved in 2011.
Although Ford is a publicly traded company, Henry Ford’s family has retained control of it for over 110 years. The family owns a very small percentage of the total stock shares (about 5 percent in 2006, down to less than 2 percent in 2010, and possibly even less now), but they command 40 percent of the actual voting power via a special stock class. That control, and the Ford family’s desire to preserve the company, may have played a part in keeping the company out of bankruptcy proceedings that gutted both GM and Chrysler circa 2009.
Vital Ford Motor Company Data
Founded: Detroit, Michigan (1903)
Current headquarters: Dearborn, Michigan
Yearly production: ~2,000,000
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