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Henry Ford
Waleed Khan

Henry Ford

Henry Ford (1863-1947), was the leading manufacturer of American automobiles in the early 1900's. He established the Ford Motor Company, which completely changed the automobile industry with its assembly line method. The savings from this technique helped Ford sell automobiles at a lower price than anyone else. From 1908 to 1927, more than half the cars sold in the United States were Fords.

Early Life
Ford was born on July 30, 1863, on a farm in Greenfield Township, Michigan, now in the city of Dearborn, Michigan. He was the sixth of eight children of William Ford. When Ford went to country schools, at age 15, he was an expert watchmaker. The next year, he left school and worked days as an apprentice engineer at a Detroit electric company. As a young man Ford became interested in a new invention, automobiles. He built his first successful gasoline engine in 1893 and his first automobile in 1896. He went on to other mechanical work, becoming familiar with steam engines and early power plants.

In 1903, Ford organized the Ford Motor Company. Like other automobile companies, Ford produced only expensive cars. However, Ford soon began working to make a simple, sturdy car that large numbers of people would be able to afford. He achieved one of the first such cars with the Model T, which appeared in 1908. In 1909, Ford decided to only produce Model T's. The best car for rough country roads, farms, and small towns, the Model T took the automobile out of the luxury class and made it an affordable necessity for the ordinary family. It also speeded up transportation all over the world. The original price of $850 for a Model T car was too high for many customers. To lower the price, Ford and his executives tried new ways to reduce production costs. The company created an assembly line method in which conveyor belts brought automobile parts to workers. Each worker performed a particular task, such as adding or tightening a part. This system helped reduce the assembly time of a Ford automobile. The Ford Motor Company began to produce its own parts instead of buying them from independent suppliers at a higher price. Ford also shipped automobile parts, rather than assembled automobiles, to market areas, where assembly plants put the parts together. Parts cost less to ship than whole automobiles did. In addition, the company began to make its own glass and steel.

As the company's production costs fell, Ford passed much of the savings on to his customers. The price of a Model T touring car dropped from $550 in 1913 to $290 in 1924, putting the automobile within reach of the average family. In 1914, Ford raised the minimum wage to $5 a day for his employees 22 years of age and over. This rate was more than twice what most wage earners received. Ford also reduced the workday from 9 to 8 hours. Workers flocked to Ford plants seeking jobs, and Ford could choose the hardest-working and smartest ones. To encourage productivity, Ford introduced a profit-sharing plan, which set aside part of the company's profits for its employees. When the United States entered World War 1 in 1917, Ford's factories had government contracts for many army supplies operated without profit. In fact, no profits were turned over to the government.

Later Life
During the mid-1920's, the General Motors Corporation (GM) gained an increasing share of the U.S. automobile market. GM offered a wide variety of models equipped with many luxuries. GM also introduced new designs yearly and advertised its cars as symbols of wealth and taste. Ford, however, continued to offer only basic transportation at a low cost. Model Ts came in a variety of colors, but after 1914, all were black. Ford finally introduced a new automobile design, the Model A, in 1927, after more than 15 million Model T's had been sold. In 1932, Ford introduced the first low-priced car with a V-8 engine, a powerful engine that had eight cylinders arranged in a V-shaped pattern. By that time, however, GM had taken the lead from Ford Motor in U.S. auto sales. In 1945, Henry Ford II, one of Ford's grandsons, took over the company. In 1947 Ford died of cerebral hemorrhage with over 5,000 people per hour filed past his casket.


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