Henry P. Ford founded the automotive company that bears his name in 1903. It was the third attempt by Ford and this one stuck in a big way. Today, Ford is one of the largest automotive manufacturers in the world and the Ford marque is the best-selling brand in America.
Five years after it was founded, Ford introduced one of its most important models ever — the Model T. The Model T transformed the industry as it was the first mass-produced model manufactured. Some 15 million Model Ts were assembled. In 1927, it was succeeded by the Model A, with millions more vehicles built.
Early on, Ford established itself in a number of areas, building its first pickup truck in 1917. In the 1920s it developed the first commercially successful V8 engine. In 1922, Ford acquired the Lincoln Motor Company and in 1938 it created the Mercury brand, the latter dissolved in 2011.
During World War II, Ford mass-produced general purpose or Jeep vehicles for the US military. In 1948, Ford released its F-Series line of pickup trucks, the forerunner of today’s Ford F-150 line.
In 1949, Ford introduced its first line of post-war designed vehicles, which set the tone for the next decade. In 1954, the Ford Thunderbird was introduced, a distinctly styled two-door coupe and Ford’s answer to the Chevrolet Corvette.
The 1960s was arguably a transformative decade for Ford as it released its Mustang sport coupe in 1964. That model helped Ford reach young buyers like no vehicle before it. Today, the Mustang is an icon that has remained in production for more than a half century.
During the 1970s Ford, like other manufacturers, came to grips with tougher emissions requirements and fuel standards, necessitating an overhaul of the product line that brought small cars such as the Pinto, Maverick and Mustang II to the market. Ford also imported the Fiesta from Europe and shrunk its larger cars.
The top product for the brand in the 1980s was the Ford Taurus, a midsize sedan that quickly became the best-selling car in America. Ford also extended its hold on the truck market, introducing the truck-based Explorer in 1990 followed by the Expedition and Excursion.
By the time Ford celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2003, the brand was composed of models small and large, including the compact Focus, the Escape utility vehicle and both its F-150 and Ranger pickup trucks.
In 2008, Ford adopted a “One Ford” strategy whereby the company introduced multiple European-designed models to the US market, including the subcompact Fiesta, an all-new Focus, and a hybrid C-Max. The company also expanded its utility vehicle offerings to include the Edge and Flex lines. Two new van lines — Transit Connect and Transit — were also rolled out. The Ford Fusion took over the midsize segment and the Ford Taurus became the brand’s flagship sedan.
Ford is a mainstream brand and counts Chevrolet and Toyota as its chief rivals. Other brands to consider include Nissan, Dodge, Honda, Chrysler, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Kia, Hyundai and Subaru.