Henry Ford was a good mechanic

Henry Ford Cars off the assembly line


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Initially, only a well-heeled minority can afford the pleasure of driving an automobile on the streets. Henry Ford changes that in 1908: With the assembly line, he turns the car into a mass product for everyone.

Status: 01/14/2021 | archive

Henry Ford was born in 1863 on his parents' farm near Detroit, Michigan. In 1879 he moved to the city and did an apprenticeship as a machinist there. He then worked, among other things, in the company of the inventor Thomas Alva Edison. During this time he also built his first automobile: the "Quadricycle" was finished in 1896. The attempt to sell motorized vehicles initially fails. But Ford does not give up: After his first company went bankrupt, he founded the "Ford Motor Company" in 1903.

"Model T", the "Blechliesl", in 1912

In 1908 Ford brought a new vehicle onto the American market: the "Model T". In the years that followed, the automobile won several races and set new speed records. The "Model T" became famous nationwide and sold well. Soon it will also be called "Tin Lizzy" in the USA and "Blechliesl" in Germany. But the real breakthrough comes five years later:

Assembly line worker around 1913 in Henry Ford's automobile factory

In 1913, Henry Ford ran an assembly line in his manufacturing facility for the first time. Three years earlier, in 1910, the automobile manufacturer visits the Chicago slaughterhouse. He observes how the butchers slaughter and cut the pigs there. The slaughtered pigs hang from the ceiling on a kind of conveyor belt and can be pushed from one butcher to the next. Each individual butcher has only a few movements to do, then he passes the pig on to the next colleague. That gives Henry Ford an idea: He wants to assemble cars according to the same principle as butchers take apart pigs in a slaughterhouse.

More cars, more profit, more wages

1920: The five millionth copy of the "Model T"

Henry Ford did not invent the assembly line, and others have used it in automobile construction before him. However, he is the first to use it consistently in production. On January 14, 1914, the Ford factory introduced assembly line production in Detroit. With success: because each worker only does a few movements, the work processes are accelerated. More "Model T" vehicles can be produced at the same time. The increasing production figures are also reflected financially: In 1914 Ford makes 30 million US dollars in profits. In 1916 it was already 60 million US dollars.

Ford's workers also share in this success: On January 5, 1914, Henry Ford announced to the press that he would double the hourly wages from January 12th and introduce an eight-hour day in his factories for workers in the USA since the middle of the 19th century and fight in Europe. Ford is by no means the first to reduce daily working hours, but it is still one of the pioneers among entrepreneurs.

Excursion into the countryside with the "Model T" in 1923

Because Ford produces cheaper than the competition, it can also lower prices. In 1908 a "Model T" still costs $ 850. After the introduction of the assembly line, the price drops to $ 300. At this price, the workers who build the "Model T" can also buy such a car. "One day - one dollar. One year - one Ford" is how Ford sums up its concept: The car should become a mass product that everyone can afford.

The most successful car in the world

Ford's design became a long-runner: in 1925 every second car in the world was a "Model T". When another model replaced the car called "Tin Lizzy" and "Blechliesl" in 1927, Ford sold around 15 million vehicles of this type. It wasn't until 1972 that another car broke this production record: the VW Beetle.

Cars from German assembly lines

The "tree frog" from Opel

The new production process found imitators in Germany too: in 1920 the brothers and automobile manufacturers Fritz and Wilhelm Opel traveled to Detroit. After their return, they radically rebuild the Opel plant in Rüsselsheim. The first assembly line in Germany is installed there in 1924. The first car to come off the line is the so-called "Laubfrosch" (Opel 4/12 PS). The new production process also makes cars affordable for German customers: At Opel, the price has dropped from 4,500 marks to 1,990 marks thanks to lower production costs. The car is no longer an expensive luxury good for a few, but is becoming a means of transport for many.

  • Travel stories of Henry Ford and others. radioReisen, May 17th, 2020 at 1:05 pm, Bavaria 2
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  • Henry Ford: From Hitler's hero to the idol of the world. radioWissen, March 18, 2021 at 9:05 am, Bayern 2