Ford Motor Company
Ford was launched from a converted wagon factory, with $28,000 cash from 12 investors. During its early years, the company produced just a few cars a day at the Ford factory on Mack Avenue in Detroit. Groups of two or three men worked on each car from components made to order by other companies.
In 1908, the Ford company released the Ford Model T. The first Model Ts were built at the Piquette Plant. The company was forced to move production to the much larger Highland Park Plant to keep up with the demand for the Model T, and by 1913 had developed all of the basic techniques of the assembly line and mass production. Ford introduced the world's first moving assembly line on December 1 that year, which reduced chassis assembly time from 12½ hours in October to 2 hours, 40 minutes. However these innovations were not popular, and in order to stop the staff deserting the monotonous jobs, on January 5, 1914, Ford took the radical step of doubling pay to $5 a day, and cut shifts from nine hours to an eight hour day  - moves that were not popular with rival companies, although seeing the increase in Ford's productivity, most soon followed suit.
By the end of 1913, Ford was producing 50% of all cars in the United States, and by 1918 half of all cars in the country were Model Ts. Referring to the Model T, Henry Ford is reported to have said that "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black." This was because black paint was quickest to dry; earlier models had been available in a variety of colors.
On January 1, 1919, Edsel Ford succeeded his father as president of the company, although Henry Ford still kept a hand in management. The Ford company lost market share during the 1920s due to the rise of consumer credit. The company's goal was to produce an inexpensive automobile that any worker could afford. To keep prices low, Ford (at the behest of its owner, Henry Ford) offered few features. General Motors and other competitors began offering automobiles in more colors, with more features and luxuries. They also extended credit so consumers could buy these more expensive automobiles. Ford resisted following suit, insisting that such credit would hurt the consumer and the economy. Due to market constraints, however, the company finally gave in and followed its competitors' lead when on December 2, 1927 Ford unveiled the redesigned Ford Model A and retired the Model T.
The Great Depression
Ford maintained production for nearly two years after the start of the Great Depression, however the slump in sales led to Ford closing the Model A assembly line on August 1, 1931, with the loss of 60,000 jobs. The following year, five Ford workers were killed as unemployed workers marched to demand jobs. Henry Ford fortified his home and the factory. Only eight of 35 US plants were in production in 1933 and it took until 1939 before sales returned to their 1929 levels.
World War II
After the outbreak of World War II, U.S. domestic automotive production ceased for the duration of the conflict, as the nation's industries were redirected to war production. Ford Motor Company was responsible for major contributions to the Allies' war effort. Of the companies contracted to produce the famous World War II "jeep" or general-purpose vehicle, Ford produced the most (the other companies included Willys-Overland, which later adopted the name Jeep.)
Wartime production at Ford also included aircraft construction. Nearby to its Detroit-area headquarters, Ford developed the Willow Run plant and its associated airfield, where the B-24 Liberator aircraft was produced.
The Willow Run plant was a massive facility, and held the distinction at the time of being the world's largest enclosed "room"; at its peak, the plant was able to produce as many as one B-24 aircraft per hour of production. Willow Run, located near Ypsilanti, Michigan, still operates as an airfield today; today, Ford rival General Motors owns part of the facility, where manufacturing continues.
During the War, thousands of women found employment in manufacturing at Ford, many for the first time. These women became symbolized by the famous poster image of Rosie the Riveter.
Ford's former manufacturing plant at Richmond, California, located near San Francisco, is under development by the National Parks Service as the Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park.
Ford's plants in Germany and Vichy France, Fordwerke, produced many of the cars and trucks used by the Nazis in World War II. The Ford Motor Company has denied allegations that they profited by the use of forced labor to produce tanks for the Nazis during the war, saying that Ford had lost control of the German division by that point in the war and was not responsible for its activities. Similar charges have been made against other American firms which had European operations at the outbreak of hostilities. It must be remembered that all companies operating in Germany at that time had to use labor provided by the German government, and that the Nazi regime chose to provide forced and slave laborers to industry.
Post war developments
Ford became a publicly traded corporation in 1956; however, the Ford family still maintains a controlling interest in the company. Henry Ford's great-grandson Bill Ford is presently chairman and CEO.
Brands and marques
Today, Ford Motor Company manufactures automobiles under the highly-recognized Lincoln and Mercury brand names. In 1958, Ford introduced a new marque, the Edsel, but poor sales led to its discontinuation in 1960. Later, in 1985, the Merkur brand was released, but met a similar fate in 1989. Both the Edsel and Merkur brands are considered failures
Ford has major manufacturing operations in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and several other countries, including South Africa, where following divestment during apartheid, it once again has a wholly-owned subsidiary. It also has a joint venture with Mahindra in India.
Ford also has a cooperative agreement with GAZ. In recent years Ford has acquired Aston Martin, Daimler, Jaguar, Volvo Cars, and Land Rover, as well as a controlling share of Mazda, with which it operates an American joint venture plant called Auto Alliance. It has spun off its parts division under the name Visteon. Its prestige brands, with the exception of Lincoln, are managed through its Premier Automotive Group.
Ford's non-manufacturing operations include organizations in the financial services (Ford Credit) and automobile rental (Hertz) businesses.