Ford Motors: A Humble Beginning


It’s amazing how a farm boy was able to achieve great success by becoming one of the founding fathers of the automobile manufacturing industry. After two failed attempts to enter into the automobile manufacturing business, Ford Motor Company was finally incorporated in 1903 by Henry Ford himself. Below is a story of a man whose determination made him one of the most respected businessmen in history.

Henry Ford was born July 30, 1863, on a farm in Greenfield Township, Michigan, USA. From an early age Henry has had a flair for mechanics. Dismantling and reassembling timepieces of friends and neighbors dozens of times, gaining the reputation of a watch repairman. His father expected him to eventually take over the family farm, but he despised farm work.

In 1879, Ford left home to work as an apprentice machinist in Detroit, USA. In 1882, he returned to work on the family farm, where he became adept at operating the Westinghouse portable steam engine. He was later hired by Westinghouse to service their steam engines. During this period Ford also studied bookkeeping at Goldsmith, Bryant & Stratton Business College in Detroit.

In 1891, Ford became an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company. After his promotion to Chief Engineer in 1893, he had enough time and money to devote attention to his personal experiments on petrol engines. These experiments culminated in 1896 with the completion of a self-propelled vehicle which he named the Ford Quadricycle. He test-drove it on June 4. After various test drives, Ford brainstormed ways to improve the Quadricycle.

Ford resigned from the Edison Company and founded the Detroit Automobile Company on August 5, 1899. However, the automobiles produced were of a lower quality and higher price than Ford wanted. Ultimately, the company was not successful and was dissolved in January 1901.

With the help of a friend and fellow engineer, Ford designed, built, and successfully raced a 26-horsepower automobile in October 1901. With this success, shareholders in the Detroit Automobile Company formed the Henry Ford Company on November 30, 1901, with Ford as chief engineer. In 1902, as a result of agreement by the shareholders of Henry Ford Company, Henry M. Leland was brought in as a consultant; Ford, in response, left the company bearing his name. With Ford gone, the company was renamed the Cadillac Automobile Company.

Back then, motor vehicles were considered affordable only to a niche consumer class with a high income. Most auto manufacturers were trying to make luxurious vehicles that appealed to the richest class of the population. Being born and raised in a farmer family, Henry Ford had the vision to produce a vehicle for the masses. This encouraged him to get to work designing an inexpensive engine which later was developed into the Model T introduced in 1908. This was a massive success, introducing the first mass produced automobiles.

Ford sold more than 15 million Model T vehicles by 1927. At that time, this was nearly half of the total number of vehicles sold by all manufacturers combined.  Demand was so high that a more efficient way of assembling vehicles was needed. Ford can also be credited with the development of automobile assembly line technique still used today.

Indeed we owe a lot to Henry Ford because of his recognition to the masses and business ingenuity, turning the automobile from a luxury product to an everyday necessity.

About Nonso Okafor

I've worked as a technical support representative in major auto centers in Nigeria for more than twenty years. I have dealt with a variety of problems in my capacity as a customer service representative and auto diagnostics expert. I'm committed to assisting people in properly maintaining their automobiles and in appreciating this magnificent innovation known as an automobile.

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