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Ford Motor Company

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(established 1903)

This large multinational motor manufacturing corporation was established in Michigan in the USA in 1903. Created through the energy of Henry Ford, by the 21st century the Ford Motor Company embraced a number of famous brands including Lincoln, Mercury, Mazda, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Volvo. The most important early automobile produced by Ford was the Model T, introduced in 1908 and priced at $950 and remaining in production until 1927, by which time sales had reached 15 million. Essentially a utilitarian workhorse, one of its major attractions was its price, an attraction that lost its appeal with the introduction of the annual model change and greater range of body styles and colours by other manufacturers, such as General Motors, in the 1920s. An important innovation at Ford was the introduction of the moving assembly line, introduced in 1913 at Ford's Highland Park factory in Michigan, which had been designed by architect Albert Kahn. With its subdivision of labour and coordination of tasks, the moving assembly line led to considerable increases in efficiency, thereby giving the company a competitive edge and lowering the price for consumers. Ford also paid his workers almost double the wages paid by his rivals and reduced the working day. A change of emphasis became apparent in 1925 when the Ford Motor Company took over the Lincoln Motor Company and began to produce luxury cars, followed by a move into the middle‐price range with the creation of the Mercury division in the 1930s. By 1927 the Ford Motor Company had developed its massive Baton Rouge factory in Michigan to such an extent that all aspects of automobile manufacturing, from raw materials to assembly, took place within a single complex. In the same year the Ford Model A was introduced, with a choice of colours and body styles, signalling a pronounced shift from the original Ford philosophy of ‘any colour so long as it's black’ to one that accepted styling as an essential aspect of consumer life in the USA. The next important innovation was the V‐8 engine, introduced in 1932. The company's Styling Department had been established in 1931 in which Eugene T. Gregorie played an important role (1935 to 1938) and where, after the Second World War, George Walker was also a strong influence (1949 to 1961). Well‐known Walker‐led models included the '49, the celebrated Ford Thunderbird (1955), and Mustang (1964), all of which were taken up in the late 20th century and early 21st century in Ford's Living Legends Studio, which designed and put into production new variants of these models, seen as ‘powerbrands’. Another noted designer who worked for Ford in the post‐war years was Gordon Buehrig, whose designs included the 1951 Hardtop, the 1952 Ranchero, and the Lincoln Continental Mark II. After Ford became a public company in 1956 it developed a programme of global expansion in the 1960s symbolized by the formation of Ford Europe in 1967 from its British and German offshoots, which had themselves first been established, respectively, in 1911 and 1931. Well‐known Ford models manufactured in Europe included the Escort (1968), the Capri (1969), derived from the American Ford Mustang, the Sierra (1982), designed by Uwe Bahnsen, the Ka (1996), developed under designer Claude Lobo, and the Focus (1999).


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