Happy birthday, Henry Ford
One hundred and fifty years ago, a man was born whose impact on the modern world is still being felt today, even though he passed away in 1947. The farmer's son with an engineering obsession embraced mass production, innovation and workers' rights and in the process revolutionised the concept of personal mobility.
Considered by many as the greatest American businessman of the 20th century, Henry Ford more or less singlehandedly created the systems, concepts and techniques that represent the modern global automotive industry.
This year is significant for a number of automotive reasons -- Aston Martin is celebrating its centenary, it's the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911 and, despite their extremely checkered pasts, Lamborghini and Maserati are also set to pass their half centuries in 2013. Yet without Ford and the automotive blueprint that he created, it's not an exaggeration to say that none of these companies would have anything to celebrate.
Often mistakenly credited with creating the assembly line -- that honour actually belongs to fellow American Samuel Colt -- in 1913 Ford became the first person to apply the principle to car manufacturing and as a result, cut the time needed to produce a Ford Model T from 12.5 man hours to 1.5 man hours in the space of 18 months.
He also understood the value of employee retention and of turning employees into customers; by becoming the first US company to introduce the US$5 work day (cutting the shift from nine to eight hours while doubling salaries in the process), he not only built a loyal workforce, but one that could easily afford the cars that they were building. Therefore, they took greater pride in their work because it could be the car that they had ordered.
As a result, Ford played a critical role in creating the modern US middle class, but more importantly he was instrumental in modernising farming, agriculture and personal transportation. The US was and still is a vast area of land but, thanks to the mass-produced and easy-t- afford motorcars, the average American now had both physical and social mobility.
July 30, 1863
Born on the family farm in Wayne County in Michigan. The eldest of six children, he shows a fascination with machinery and engineering from an early age.
June 4, 1896
Builds first car, the Quadricycle, in a shed behind his home while working as an engineer for Edison Illuminating.
June 16, 1903
Founds the Ford Motor Company.
July 15, 1903
Sells his first Ford car, the Model A.
October 1, 1908
Launches the Ford Model T with a price tag of $850. – AFP/Relaxnews, July 31, 2013.