Ford was launched from a converted wagon factory in 1903 with $28,000 in cash from twelve investors. During its early years, the company produced just a few Model T's a day at its factory on Mack Avenue in Detroit. Groups of two or three men worked on each car from components made to order by other companies. Henry Ford was 40 years old when he founded the Ford Motor Company, which would go on to become one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world, as well as being one of the few to survive the Great Depression. The largest family-controlled company in the world, the Ford Motor Company has been in continuous family control for over 100 years.
In 1908, the Ford Company released the Ford Model T. The first Model T's were built at the Piquette Manufacturing Plant. The company moved production to the much larger Highland Park Plant to keep up with the demand for the Model T. By 1913, the company had developed all of the basic techniques of the assembly line and mass production. Ford introduced the world's first moving assembly line that year, which reduced chassis assembly time from 12½ hours in October to 2 hours, 40 minutes. However, these innovations were not popular, and turnover of workers was very high. Turnover meant delays and extra costs of training, and use of slow workers. In January 1914, Ford solved the employee turnover problem by doubling pay to $5 a day, cutting shifts from nine hours to an eight hour day for a 5 day work week, and instituting hiring practices that identified the best workers. Thus, it pioneered the minimum wage and the 40 hour work week in the United States, before the government enacted it. Thus, Henry Ford became an American legend.
Productivity soared and employee turnover plunged, and the cost per vehicle plummeted. Ford cut prices again and again and invented the system of franchised dealers who were loyal to his brand name. Wall Street had disagreed with Ford's generous labor practices when he began paying workers enough to buy the products they made.
Ford assembly line (1913)By the end of 1913, Ford was producing 50 percent of all cars in the United States, and by 1918 half of all cars in the country were Model Ts. Henry Ford is reported to have said, "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black." This was because black paint was quickest to dry; earlier models had been available in a variety of colors...
In 1915, Henry Ford went on a peace mission to Europe aboard a ship, joining other pacifists in efforts to stop World War I. This led to an increase in his personal popularity. Ford would subsequently go on to support the war effort with the Model T becoming the underpinnings for allied military vehicles.