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The Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903 by Henry Ford and since then has grown to become the world's third largest automaker.  Based in Dearborn, Michigan, just outside Detroit, Ford has grown to become the largest family-controlled company in the world, with over 100 years of continuous family ownership and control.

The Founding


Henry Ford's first venture into the automotive industry was in 1899 with his company entitled the Detroit Automobile Company.  He changed the name in 1901 to the Henry Ford Company, but due to a falling out with financial backers he left the company in March of 1902 with $900 and the rights to his name.  The Henry Ford Company changed its name to Cadillac and is the same successful automaker in business today.


On June 16, 1903 the Ford Motor Company was incorporated with 12 investors.  Initially the company was a joint venture between Henry Ford and his acquaintance and coal dealer Alexander Malcomson.  A falling out occurred between the two over which direction they wanted to company to go, and the shareholders sided with Ford.  By 1906, Malcomson had left the company, selling all of his shares to Ford.


The Assembly Line


In 1913, the Ford Motor Company pioneered all basic techniques of the assembly line and spurred mass production.  The assembly line allowed for the Model T to become one of the most popular cars in the world.  What once took 12½ hours to create was shortened to 2 hours and 40 minutes and then later to just 1 hour and 33 minutes.  Annual output was boosted from 18,000 in 1909 to an astonishing 202,667 in 1913. 


The innovations in production took a harsh toll on employees.  Increased productivity and labor demand caused high employee turnover.  In order to combat the growing issue, Ford more than doubled what it was paying its employees, raising wages from $2.34 per day to $5 per day.  This caused a rush of 15,000 prospective employees to clamor for 3,000 jobs available at the Model T Plant in Highland Park, Michigan.


Early Global Presence


The Ford Motor Company attained an international status very early on, with the founding of Ford of Canada in 1904.  It would take the auto maker a few more years before its presence would be felt overseas.  In 1911, Ford made an extensive push to expand abroad, opening assembly plants in Ireland, England, France, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Argentina, South Africa and Australia all by 1925. 


By the end of the year in 1919, Ford was responsible for the production of half of the cars in the United States and 40 percent of all cars in England.  By 1920, half of all the cars driven in the United States were Ford's very own Model Ts.  The assembly line allowed for production massive enough to extend throughout the world, and auto makers without the technology were on the edge of, or already in, bankruptcy.


Lincoln Motor Company


On February 4, 1922 Ford made a move into the luxury automotive market by acquiring the Lincoln Motor Company.  The Lincoln Motor Company was named after the United States' 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, whom Henry Ford held much admiration for.  His fascination with Lincoln was so great that Henry Ford purchased the chair in which Lincoln was assassinated.  It now resides in the Henry Ford Museum alongside the limousine that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in.


The Mercury division of Ford was established in 1938 to serve as an avenue into the market of mid-priced automobiles.


World War II to Modern Day


On March 1, 1941 Ford began producing general-purpose "jeeps" for the United States military.  Ford shifted to solely military production in February of 1942.  The production of vehicles was only for military use for over three years, until Ford switched back to civilian production in July 1945.


On January 17, 1956 common stock for the Ford Motor Company went on sale.  More than 10.2 million shares were sold on the first day, accounting for 22 percent of the company.  By December 31, 1988, Ford's worldwide earnings reached $5.3 billion, which was the highest of any auto maker to date.


Putting a Man on the Moon


Philco, a subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company, did support work for NASA during the Gemini and Apollo space programs. Philco supported many defense and space projects during that period due to its capabilities in microelectronics, transistors and solid state devices.


Over the years, Ford Aerospace continued to provide the NASA and U.S. Department of Defense with satellite control systems and ground terminals, which are the basic communication links for space missions. In 1976, it was awarded a $235 million contract to build seven satellites for a 95-nation satellite organization. Many live television transmissions between continents, and many telephone calls, are relayed today by these satellites.


Pioneers in Alternative Fuel


Ford unveiled the Ford Explorer on March 15, 1990.  The Explorer would go on to become the best-selling SUV in the United States.  In April of 1993 Ford becomes one of the first auto makers to delve into alternative fuel, with the production of the Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV) Taurus.  FFVs are able to burn gasoline, ethanol or a combination of the two.  Ford's innovative approach on different fuel types continued in 1997 when the Dearborn-based auto maker sold the first taxicabs that run on natural gas to New York City.  Later, in 2005, Ford debuts the gas-electric hybrid version of the Mercury Mariner; one of the first of its kind.


Expansion and Acquisitions


The Ford Motor Company brand extends far past the blue oval and even beyond Lincoln and Mercury.  In 1987, Ford acquired 75 percent of Aston Martin Lagonda, Ltd, and two years later, in 1989, Ford spent $2.5 billion to buy Jaguar Cars.  On July 1, 1992, Ford purchased 50 percent of Mazda Motor Manufacturing and changed the name to AutoAlliance International.  This move greatly helped Ford extend into Asian markets, strengthening the brand overseas.


As more manufacturing plants were opening across the globe, Ford opened its first dealership in China on June 20, 1993.  The venture turned out to be a great success, as there were 150 Ford dealerships open for business in China by the year 2005, up from 100 just the year before.