Using a converted Detroit factory and $28,000 from twelve investors (among them the Dodge brothers John and Horace), 40 year old Henry Ford began what would become one of the worlds largest and most influential automobile
empires in 1903. The original car was the Model A, which morphed into the Model S by 1908, the same year that Henry Ford released the most famous of them all, the Model T. Widely regarded today as the father of modern production techniques, production would increase exponentially when the company moved to their own Piquette Road facility in 1909.
That year, some 18,000+ Model T’s
would roll off the production line, the affordability of the car helping bring unprecedented demand – for the automobile
was no longer the play-thing for the rich and influential. Moving to an even bigger facility at Highland Park, by 1911 production of the Model T had reached 70,000+, and by 1913 the company had developed the first moving assembly line, the term “mass production” entering the vocabulary.
The benefits of the moving assembly line were immediately evident, with the time taken for the assembly of a chassis being slashed from 12½ hours to just 2 hours, 40 minutes. The new production techniques did, however, lead to general employee dissatisfaction and high turn-over. With Ford needing to continually train and up-skill workers, a solution was needed. The answer was to double pay to $5 a day, cut shifts from nine hours to an eight hour day for a 5 day work week, and institute hiring practices that identified the best workers.
Thus, it pioneered the minimum wage and the 40 hour work week in the United States, even before the government enacted it.
With the employee relations issues well sorted, production times would again start to fall, and productivity rise. By 1919 Ford was manufacturing 50% of all cars in the USA, and by 1920 (when production hit the one-million mark), half of all cars in the continental United States were Model T’s.
Model T's also became a popular export, many receiving unique features to ensure their suitability, such as enlarging the upper tank of the radiator
to ensure better cooling in tropical climates. During the twenties the roadster and
touring bodies were supplied with an optional 'khaki' colored top
material as the black version would get too hot in the intense sunlight.
Also the majority of the export destination countries (such as Australia) drove on the left
hand side of the road so the cars had the steering
wheel on the right
hand side. With many countries insisting that their workers should be used in the manufacture of automobiles, Ford embarked on an overseas expansion programme, which included Ford South Africa (1924), Ford Canada (1925) and Ford Australia (1925).