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Jim's Jottings

GM turns out the Volt, I close out Henry Ford

December 08, 2010 - This is the fifth and last in my series on Henry Ford, 1863-1947. This will be some highlights in his career, as written in The Automotive News on the 100th birthday of Ford, 1963.

In June 1903, after two failed attempts by Henry Ford to start the auto company, he joined with 11 investors to start Ford Motor Company with $28,000 in capital. A few years later, some investors sold their shares to Ford, giving him complete control.

The culmination of Henry's vision came in 1908 with the Model T. It first sold for $850, and the price kept falling as he boosted volume and slashed automotive costs.

For almost a decade George Seldon kept the auto industry hamstrung with his engine patent. Henry Ford sued and won, freeing all automakers from paying royalties on internal combustion engines.

Ford Motor Company opened its first plant outside North America in 1911 in England and 2 years later in France.

In 1913, Ford's moving assembly line brought work to the workers and spurred an unprecedented increase in volume.

One thing Henry learned before the rest of the industry: There's no sales bait like a rebate.

Since 1912 Ford and Chevrolet have been competing for U. S. sales leadership.

Merchants stuck all types of cargo-hauling contraptions on the chassis of their Model T's to get freight from here to there. Henry saw the need and the result was Ford Motor's first truck, the Model TT.

The world has never seen anything like it: 90 buildings, 27 miles of conveyors and 93 miles of railroad track. Ford ships delivered iron ore directly to Ford's steel mill. The goal was vertical integration, and the Rouge complex helped transform America's industrial landscape.

Tired of meddlesome investors, Henry bought all their shares in 1919. He, his wife Clara and son Edsel became the sole owners of Ford Motor.

Lumber, soybeans, railroads, even charcoal briquettes -- Henry's curiosity led him into a variety of businesses.

One of the darkest sides of Henry Ford was his vehement and public dislike of Jews. He used his newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, to spread his venom.

Henry made his mark by making simple cars for simple people. But in 1923, Edsel persuaded him to buy Lincoln for $8 million and enter the luxury market.

It was a number almost too big to be believed. In 1923, Ford was the first brand to sell a million cars a year.

Henry was one of the first to see the potential of commercial aviation, and was an innovator in the field.

On March 7, 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, 4,000 desperate people marched to Ford's Rouge complex to beg for jobs. They were met with tear gas, fire hoses and bullets.

The Ford Foundation was started in 1936, in part to assure the Ford family would retain control of Ford Motor. The foundation would become one of the world's most powerful philanthropic organizations.

Jim Sherman, Sr. is president of Sherman Publications, Inc. He has penned "Jim's Jottings" since 1955.
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