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Happy Birthday, Dear Henry

Ford founder would be 150 today – but other big anniversaries are a year away.

by on Jul.30, 2013

The man and machine that changed the world. Henry Ford and the Model T.

He died much as he was born, by lamplight on the Fairlane Estate near the farm where he was raised. But much changed during his 83 years, and Henry Ford had a hand in much of that transformation.

His name can still be found on millions of automobiles produced in plants around the world, from Beijing to Britain and, of course, Detroit.  And while the assembly line concept he pioneered has gone through major updates it remains the heart of modern manufacturing. He was a global visionary and an advocate for peace who also helped supply the American military machine through two world wars.

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Henry Ford might have helped put America on wheels and helped make modern consumerism possible, but he also tinkered with social engineering during an era when millions of Americans moved from farms to factories. Henry Ford’s grand goals were tarnished, in the eyes of many by his naiveté and anti-Semitism.

“Henry Ford was a very complex man and someone who was very contradictory in many ways,” says Bill Chapin, head of the Automotive Hall of Fame which is located near Ford Motor Co. headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan and on the campus of the Henry Ford, a museum devoted to Americana and American ingenuity.

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Ford Produces Milestone 350 Millionth Vehicle

Thai-made Focus symbolic of maker's big transformation.

by on Aug.31, 2012

Ford's 350 millionth vehicles, a red Focus sedan, rolls down the assembly line in Rayong, Thailand today.

It looked pretty much like any other Ford Focus as it rolled down the maker’s assembly line in the Bangkok suburb of Rayong early Friday morning.  But the compact sedan marked a major milestone for the automaker – as the 350 millionth vehicle has produced in its nearly 110-year history.

The event was significant for more than just the raw numbers.  The sedan symbolizes the dramatic transformation that has been shaking up Ford as it evolves from a worldwide network of regional fiefdoms into an integrated system producing global products like the Focus.

Equally noteworthy is the fact that the Rayong plant was chosen to mark the occasion.  The Asian market has become increasingly important to Ford – and its rivals.  The maker will soon operate nine plants in the region – including the newest of six in China for which Ford CEO Alan Mulally helped break ground earlier this week.

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“Producing 350 million vehicles is equivalent to producing one vehicle every 10 seconds for our 109-year history. If placed end to end, the vehicles would stretch to the moon and back – twice,” said John Fleming, Ford executive vice president of global manufacturing, in a statement.

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The Factory that Built the American Dream

Henry Ford’s Highland Park Assembly Plant 100 Years Later.

by on Jan.04, 2010

A machine that changed the world. Henry Ford and the Model T.

On New Year’s Day of 1910, Henry Ford started producing Model T’s at what was then the world’s largest auto factory – the Highland Park Ford Plant. It was an airy complex that would change the world with his new ideas – the moving assembly line, and more than doubling his workers’ pay to the unheard of sum of $5.00 a day.

The assembly line made mass production possible and the unexpected result of boosting his workers’ paychecks meant they could buy his cars and everything else under the sun. Other companies had to compete for the same workers and his employee’s twofold pay increase drove wages up around the country, which stimulated demand.

This true “trickle down” phenomenon gave birth to the modern American Dream of home ownership, plentiful high paying jobs, decent schools and a pathway to citizenship for those willing to do a hard day’s work. There are still lessons to be learned.

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“Mass production and the $5.00 day gave the country an enormous boost; it simply made consumers out of almost everyone, in terms of automobiles. The automobile industry was so important to the economy that as it went, the economy seemed to go,” said David Lewis, professor of Business History at the University of Michigan.

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