Henry Ford has never given himself the title like a pioneer of the automobile. And, it is well-known that no man can make such a saying, more than him, to have put the "world on four wheels".
The whole adventure of this conqueror began very modestly, or a little bit boring. First, he is a mechanic, then becomes an engineer in the lighting company of Thomas Edison. Henry was very passionate about internal combustion engines. Originating from a modest family of farmers, he sees in this recent invention the way to lighten the harsh stains of the ground.
In 1893, he manufactured his first twin-cylinder and to test his power, he then began to build a small vehicle. Three years later, the "first Ford" is ready. But to make it roll, it must be removed from the workshop where it was designed. And the door is too small. Henry, therefore, demolishes the facade of his workshop to give him freedom! Meanwhile, the automobile that has asserted itself in Europe begins to spark vocations across the Atlantic and Henry gets caught up in the game.
He forgets the agricultural vocation of his machine and then decides to become in turn a car manufacturer. He is already very ambitious. Too much perhaps and especially too early. He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, but after two years the company, which sold only a handful of vehicles, was dissolved. He joined forces with William Murphy, one of the wealthiest men in the region, and in 1901 founded the "Henry Ford Motor Company". To promote his brand, Henry built a racing car, the "999" which won him first national recognition by winning some success in front of European productions. Ford, too fond of independence, separated from Murphy in 1902, and this time associated with Alexander Malcomson,
16 million Ford T
With a Ford Model A (first of the name) sold to 1,700 copies in fifteen months, it was the beginning of the fortune. But Henry Ford already sees bigger and further. The Detroit area is fast becoming the automotive capital of the world. The factories are growing like mushrooms, the investments are considerable and the profits fast and excessive. Ford, aware of this tremendous growth and undoubtedly more intuitive than its rivals, knocked down its trump card in 1908: the Ford T.
The assembly time goes from 12:28 to 1:33!
It is high on its legs, simple if not simplistic, frail in appearance but of robust constitution. Nicknamed "Tin Lizzie" (the good handyman in tinplate!), It is available in multiple versions to satisfy both rural and urban customers. Despite a rather high sale price, its success was immediate. A few years later (1912), Ford introduced assembly line production in its factories. In 18 months, the assembly time goes from 12:28 to 1:33! Production reached surreal rates, to the point that one car in two sold in the world in 1920 was a Ford T. Costs fell and Ford, in 1915, decided to reimburse 50 dollars to former buyers of a Ford T.
He does not hesitate to give his workers the highest wages in the automotive industry, not out of altruism, but to make them buyers of Ford T … In ten years, Henry Ford has become very wealthy and famous but, blinded by its success, it commits gross management errors. From 1923, sales of the "T", after a final peak, began to stagnate, then fell alarmingly.
Threat of bankruptcy
With the improvement of road networks, public demand has evolved. Customers now want more beautiful and above all more comfortable cars. The Ford T no longer meets this demand, but Henry, stubborn, is convinced that nothing can ever replace this universal car. Edsel, his only son, who succeeded him to the presidency in 1919 maintains the opposite and the "family" conflicts become more and more acute.
In 1926, Henry finally gave in, but the production of a new model was not prepared. The Ford factories shut down for seven months to develop new chains. The opportunity is too good for General Motors which then assures itself supremacy on the national level that Ford will never be able to challenge it again. Finally, in September 1927, the Ford A was marketed. Despite a good welcome, she will not know the success of her legendary predecessor. It was not until 1932 and the launch of the V8 engine ranges (sold only ten dollars more than the four-cylinder) for Ford to regain some notoriety. The robust, powerful V8 engine, cast in one piece, will be faithfully used for 22 years!
However, despite this commercial surge, Ford got bogged down during the thirties in insoluble social conflicts. Old Henry no longer understands this world where everything is going too fast and the conflicts with Edsel are permanent and all the keener since he has placed alongside his son, a trusted man who reigns terror in the factories. Edsel, exhausted and sick, died suddenly in 1943. Henry, aged 80, decided to take over the management. Under the influence of his wife Clara but especially under the pressure of the American government (Ford is one of the main industries participating in the war effort), Henry ends up ceding power to his grandson.
Henri Ford II revives the brand
Henry Ford II is 27 years old and had fled the poisoned climate of the "house" while fighting in the Navy. At the end of hostilities, he will build around him a leading team of the highest order by calling on his former fellow officers. All graduates of major universities, the "wizz-kids" will rid the venerable house of all its archaisms, clean up management by reintroducing in particular stock market shares and restore social dialogue with a very daring policy (for the era) of pension funds. During the sixties, Henry Ford II succeeded in rebuilding a veritable empire which is now in second place globally, behind GM, the forever rival. After this decade, where Ford will fly from success to success, in particular, thanks to the
Ford, like GM and Chrysler, is suffering the full force of Japanese vehicles entering the American market. For a time, the group will even lose its position as world number 2 to the benefit of Toyota. A severe restructuring policy associated with the dissemination of European models of the brand in the United States eventually paid off in the mid-80s. Ford then bought Aston Martin (1987), Jaguar in 1989, Volvo in 1999. With the Lincoln-Mercury division, these acquisitions place Ford among the world's leading luxury car manufacturers, behind Mercedes-Chrysler and General Motors. Ford has now found the path to success and accumulates profits estimated each year at several billion dollars…
The legends of Ford would never die even though today Ford is not in an auspicious period of its history. The maxim also can be applied to this American manufacturer. Now, between two eras, this brand seems to be at the bottom of the wave. We hold the view that she will bounce back and surprise us. Let's wait for the showtime.