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DEARBORN - When he founded Ford Motor Company in June 1903, Henry Ford had big dreams and ambitions for what he thought the company would accomplish.
One hundred and eight years later, Ford reflects upon just a few ways the company has impacted the lives of not only its investors, employees and customers, but the rest of the world as well.
A living wage
Prior to the implementation of the U.S. $5 daily wage, autoworkers made an average of $2.34 per day with them standard nine-hour shift.
Henry Ford changed all of that on Jan. 12, 1914, when his new profit-sharing program went into effect and he altered the plant shifts from two nine-hour shifts to three eighthour shifts.
Autoworkers called Ford Motor Company, “The greatest and most successful automobile manufacturing company in the world.” They now worked shorter shifts for double the income. Employee morale rose dramatically, turnover rates dropped and production increased.
This revolutionary program is credited with raising the standard of living of autoworkers to the point where they could afford to purchase the automobiles they were producing, thereby expanding the middle class to an unprecedented size.
Putting the world on wheels
When Henry Ford stated, “I will build a motor car for the great multitude,” his intent was to have this car be affordable to all and easy to operate.
He succeeded beyond expectations with the development of the Model T, which first shipped on Oct. 1, 1908 and was known as the “World Car.” In its almost 19 years of production, the Model T would sell more than 15 million models in nine bodystyles.
It was introduced with a price tag of $850, but the efficiencies of the moving assembly line would create production savings that Henry Ford passed on to customers. The Model T was sold for as low as $260 in 1924.
By the end of 1913, the Model T accounted for nearly half of the automobiles sold in the United States, and by the early 1920s, more than half of the registered automobiles in the world were Fords. The Model T truly put the world on wheels.
The pony car
Launched at the New York World’s Fair on April 17, 1964, the Mustang forever changed the landscape of the American highway.
As one of the most recognizable vehicles in the world, the Mustang sold 417,000 vehicles in its first year, and has gone on to sell more than 8 million vehicles in the past 47 years.
This pony car was designed in the early 1960s to appeal to the post-World War II baby boomer generation, and has become a cultural icon having appeared in numerous movies. Additionally, the pony car has inspired many songs and books through the decades.
Available as a two-door hardtop or convertible, the Mustang’s long sweeping hood and short rear deck, along with its silver galloping emblem, can be seen in private collections and museums around the world, including The Henry Ford and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Mass production for all
Although Henry Ford did not invent the moving assembly line, he certainly perfected this method of mass production.
Prior to the installation of a moving assembly line at Ford’s Highland Park Plant, runners would bring necessary parts to autoworkers all over the facility, which was 50,000 square feet spread over 6 acres. This was a slow and tedious process that caused downtime and frequent production delays.
In early 1913, experiments began with small assembly lines, and by October of that year the first vehicle assembly line was operating, which allowed Ford to dramatically cut production times. By January 1914, a more permanent moving assembly line was in place at Highland Park, also known as the Crystal Palace, and Model Ts were rolling off the line at unprecedented rates.
The modern assembly line is utilized in all types of manufacturing today, allowing the efficient production of goods.
Supporting the community
The Ford family’s history of philanthropy dates back to 1936, when they established the Ford Foundation, a charitable institution separate from the company. In 1949, Henry Ford II established the Ford Motor Company Fund.
The Ford Fund is a nonprofit corporation supported primarily by contributions from the company and, in the past six decades, has contributed more than $1.3 billion to worthy organizations and projects dedicated to education and innovation.
This spirit of giving back to the communities in which we live continues today with MODEL Teams events and Accelerated Action Days, where employees are permitted paid time off to volunteer and to have a positive impact on the lives of others.
A legacy continues
These are just a few of the ways Ford, during its first century of operation, has impacted the world. Arguments can be made for the influence of other innovations, products and changes that Ford has developed. However, as the company moves forward in its second century, it continues a historic legacy through a focus on safety, quality, technology and the environment.