Ford is possibly the best-known car manufacturer in the western world. They produce a wide range of vehicles competing in nearly all market sectors. Maintaining this large range of available vehicles hasnít always been plain sailing.
From humble beginnings that would revolutionised industry forever, to their recent record losses. What does the future hold for them, and what lessons should they learn from their past?
A new approach
After starting business in 1903 Henry Ford was the first person to implement using an assembly line to build cars. He is said to have been inspired by the way pigs are dealt with at a slaughterhouse. The assembly line method proved to be far more productive, and is still the most common method of building vehicles today. As a natural progression of the assembly line mentality Henry also created the structured 8 hour work day.A family affair
All CEOís of Ford Motor Company are direct descendants of Henry Ford. This makes ford the largest family run business in the world. Even his name has been seen at the top of the Ford tree again, as his grandson, Henry Ford II, became the CEO. Redefining a market
One of the most famous cars of all time is the Ford Model T. It gained its infamy because of its popularity. In 1916 over 50% of all cars on the road where a Model T. Fords manufacturing methods and relentless innovation meant that the Model T was offered at less than half the price of its closest rivals. Henry Ford also created a credit plan to make the car more accessible to the masses.
Financial highs and lows
In the late eighties Ford were recording profits of more than $4.5 Billion, with 5 of the top eight best selling cars all being Fords. Between 2006 and 2008 Ford recorded more than $30 Billion in losses. The early losses led Ford to raise funding that amounted to $25 Billion. They also started to sell some of the companies they had acquired, such as Land Rover and Jaguar. They approached the US Government with other manufacturers for a bailout, but had no joy. The government did eventually come back to Ford, but by this time Ford had made other arrangements and turned the government down.
Ford in the movies
When a manufacturer has been around as long as Ford have you would expect them to have appeared in a film or two. In Fords case the number is far greater. Here are just a few of there starring roles. Thelma and Louise, National Lampoons Vacation, American Graffiti, Bullitt, Grease, Starsky and Hutch, Gone in 60 Seconds, Mad Max. The chase seen in Bullitt was considered one of the best chases ever committed to celluloid.
For many generations ford have produced cars to adorn schoolboys walls. In the UK the Sierra and Escort Cosworths where very popular, although the cheaper RS Turbo was far more common, these would often be modified to resemble a Cosworth. The RS and XR models became the sports car of the people. Ford recently breathed new life into the RS brand by releasing a Focus RS. It was met with much excitement, a rush of deposits and pre-orders, and much critical acclaim.
Ford Mustangs have always been popular, even on its first day of release it received more than 22,000 orders. It surpassed all sales estimates. Predicted figures showed 100,000 units expected in its first year, it sold more than 417,000. They passed the 1 Million mark before the second year was over. One showroom had to lock up early and call police when disappointed customers stormed the dealership. One entrepreneurial individual auctioned a Mustang in Texas. There were lots of bidders, but the eventual winner stayed with the vehicle all night, even sleeping in it, until his cheque had cleared. He was afraid if he left it someone else would try to purchase it for more money.
Legendary status, and then some
Even though the Mustang was already a massive success, one variation was to become the best known of all the mustangs. The Shelby GT Mustang. Shelby would produce performance variants of the standard Mustang. The most famous of these is the 1967 Mustang GT350. This car gained even more notoriety recently when it got a starring role in Gone in 60 Seconds.
Ford has competed in nearly every motorsport series. Their Cosworth tuned engines have been used in F1, they have a factory team in WRC and also compete in NASCAR, Stock Car, and Drag Racing series. They have had a lot of success over the years, but perhaps the biggest PR success in recent times has been in relation to the WRC team. Ford was onto a sure winner when they managed to steal Colin McRae away from Subaru. Ken Blocks now famous Gymkhana videos also feature his majorly modified Fiesta.
Bigfoot comes out of hiding
Iím sure Bob Chandler didnít realise the phenomenon he was creating when he began converting the family pick up, an F-250, into what would eventually become Bigfoot. It was introduced in 1979 and is regarded as the first Monster Truck. Since then it has spawned race series, toy lines, kids shows, and computer games. It has enjoyed global success due to partnerships with companies such as Microsoft, Firestone and DuPont.