For more than 100 years now, Ford Motor Company has been selling mass-produced automobiles in the United States and around the globe. Known as one of the Big Three American manufacturers, Ford has attracted millions of loyal customers with a wide range of dynamic and innovative products that offer considerable value for the money. The automaker's trucks and SUVs have been especially popular. For decades, Ford's F-Series truck has been the best-selling vehicle in America.
The company was founded by Henry Ford in 1903. Ford dreamed of building a car for the masses, and that's precisely what he did. Beginning with 1903's Model A, the Michigan-based company gradually rolled out a lineup of conservatively priced vehicles that were typically named using the letters of the alphabet. Perhaps the best-known Ford of this series is the immortal Model T of 1908-1927, which was bought by 16.5 million Americans during its 20-year lifespan and was affordable enough for Ford's own factory workers to purchase. Ford's early years were also distinguished by its introduction of the moving assembly line. It was the first to utilize this more cost-effective method of production, and its innovation became a mainstay of the manufacturing process.
Ford expanded into the luxury-car market with its purchase of Lincoln Motor Company in 1925. Over the next few years, the company broadened its focus even further by creating the Mercury division to produce midpriced cars. By the late '30s, Ford had unveiled the stylish Lincoln Zephyr, introduced a low-priced V8 engine and built over 25 million vehicles.
The postwar era saw the introduction of the legendary Thunderbird. Offering performance wedded to luxury features like power windows, the car was a huge hit. That decade also saw the introduction of a new Ford Motor Company brand, known as Edsel, that met with a somewhat less enthusiastic reception to say the least. In the wake of abysmal sales, the brand that featured a variety of questionably styled body styles was discontinued just a few months into its third model year.
Ford regained its footing in the early 1960s with the introduction of the compact Falcon, a model that was warmly received by the public. By the middle of the decade the automaker had given enthusiasts something to cheer about with the launch of the sporty Ford Mustang, a car that went on to become one of the biggest sellers of its day. Buyers adored the Mustang's low price, available powerful V8 engines and sleek styling. The Mustang even created a brand-new vehicle category: the pony car.
By the 1970s, Ford, like other domestic automakers, was starting to suffer the effects of changing consumer tastes and new government regulations. Many of its cars became shadows of their former selves. But the seeds of rebirth were planted in this decade. In 1979, the company acquired a stake in Mazda; this move would later aid Ford significantly in co-development projects. It also emerged with a new mindset of global competitiveness. By the mid- to late '80s, Ford was showing new strength with its popular Escort and Taurus models while further expanding its empire with the purchase of the Jaguar and Aston Martin brands.
Ford rode a wave of popularity in the 1990s, thanks in part to the success of its Explorer midsize SUV. The ute was a hit and played a huge role in ushering in the era of the SUV. In 1999, Ford expanded its family yet again with the purchase of Volvo's car division, and, in 2000, it acquired Land Rover. For awhile, there was talk of Ford even taking General Motors' spot as the No. 1 automaker in the world.
But the new millennium has seen a downturn for Ford. Increased competition, legacy costs and a reliance on SUVs for profit have taken their toll. The brand has sold off Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover to cut losses. While Volvo and Mazda remain in the fold, Ford Motor Company is attempting to claw its way back in the domestic market with better products and marketing. The future is uncertain, but if past business cycles are any indication, Ford will likely be seeing brighter days ahead.