Prepared for Edsel B. Ford II, of Ford Motor Company.
Delivered to Atlanta Press Corps, Atlanta, GA
Thank you Anne [ Booker]. I'd like to thank all of you for coming
out to help us celebrate Ford Motor Company's centennial.
A hundredth birthday doesn't come along every day, so this is
a milestone event for us.
And its a special opportunity for me, personally.
For while I've been involved in preserving the family legacy for
most of my adult life, I appreciate a chance to learn a little
more about my company's, and my family's, heritage.
When I was growing up, we didn't talk a lot about family history.
In fact, if there is one lesson I learned, it was a much-repeated
admonition that "no matter how tall your grandfather was,
you have to do your own growing."
And that's been true for my company as well as my family for five
As I like to point out, Henry Ford built cars with a windshield
that was significantly larger than the rear view mirror... a practice
we continue to this very day. Our focus has always been on the
My great-grandfather didn't like reminiscing. Henry Ford said,
and I quote -- "The only history that's worth a tinker's dam
is the history we make today."
Well, today Ford is not only recounting history, we're making
For 2003 is both our centennial year, and a year of unprecedented
We believe that Ford's revitalization and our history are part
of the same story.
For we are getting back to basics, designing, engineering, building
vehicles that stir passion in the hearts and souls of our customers.
We are reapplying the vision and values that founded Ford and
have sustained us for an entire century.
This is truly a pivotal year for Ford, a milestone where we pause,
if only for a moment, to look back at where we've been and reaffirm
that we're on the right road to the future.
But before I get into all that, I'd like to explain why the Ford
Centennial is as significant for every American, indeed, for countless
millions around the globe.
That's because Henry Ford not only founded a company, he changed
And that's no exaggeration.
Every so often a technology comes along that literally changes
That's true of such inventions as the Gutenberg printing press
which was the first true information "explosion"...
... the steam engine which powered the industrial revolution...
... and the electric light bulb without which we would all be
running our personal computers by candle light.
The Model T Ford represents that level of importance.
At one point in the early 1920s, more than half of all the cars
on this entire planet were nearly identical Model T Fords. Ford
literally put the world on wheels.
Yet what we celebrate in the Model T is not so much a car as a
The concept was that working class people should be able to enjoy
fruits of their own labor. The freedom and personal mobility
provided by a family car ought to be accessible to the vast majority.
Henry Ford believed that by using the most advanced technologies,
materials and manufacturing techniques, he could produce such a
car. He could create the first high-quality, dependable car that
working families could afford.
The first Model T, for instance, sold for $825... then through
continuous improvement in product and process, he brought it down
then to $350... then to a low of just $260. Henry Ford was focused,
not fixated, on leadership through low-cost production.
And he did more. Henry Ford established the five-dollar-day for
employees at a time when the average industrial worker took a full
week to earn that much.
That single act set a standard of living for working people, and
it inspired the consumer economy that became the envy of the world.
And when I say Ford put the world on wheels, I literally mean "the
I've had the privilege in my career of traveling the world for
Ford, and I've been forever amazed at how truly integrated Ford
is into the tens of thousand of communities it serves in more than
Within three years of our company's founding, Ford was exporting
cars to Europe. Within ten years, Ford had assembly plants in Canada,
Europe, Australia, South America, and China.
Ford was among the very first global companies then, and the global
tradition has steadily grown over the century.
We now sell upwards of 7 million cars and trucks a year worldwide.
That means even with so many new and several long-standing competitors,
one of every eight vehicles sold on earth is a Ford.
Our marketing studies show that the Ford oval is one the three
most recognized symbols in the world... right up there with Coca-Cola
And speaking of those icons, not long ago a Coke executive said
something I'll never forget.
He said that if Coke stopped making soft drinks today, there wouldn't
be a single example of its product after just three weeks of consumption.
I'm sure that's even truer with McDonalds as French fries don't
have much staying power.
Compare that to Ford's products. The average car or truck serves
for somewhere around 10 years. And that's just the average.
I've been in places in South America and Asia where cars that
are 30, 40, even 50 years old are everywhere.
So the blue oval is not only among the most recognized commercial
symbols, it may well be the most universally enduring one.
Now there is far more I could tell you about my great-grandfather
and his contribution.
I could talk for hours about his pioneering achievements in products,
manufacturing innovations, equal-opportunity, hiring the handicapped,
environmental stewardship, safety, farming, and aviation, and the
list goes one...
...yet I think I've said enough to make the point that Henry Ford
made a tremendous impact on our world and changed the way we worked,
lived and played through the last century.
So Henry Ford was a great man, but like all visionaries, he had
his blind spots.
One, for example, was to tenaciously opposition to any form of
car financing. As a farmer by birth, he held to "cash and
Well as I've learned from my four sons, God gives us children
so they can point out all of our shortcomings.
Henry's son Edsel established an auto financing operation for
awhile, until his dad closed it down. Then another generation later,
my father Henry Ford II launched Ford Credit Company, which is
now the largest automotive finance company in the world.
My point is that while Henry Ford was a great man, he was only
one man. It takes generations of committed people enhancing and
refining the original vision generation after generation.
Building a legacy is a continuous improvement process. In this
way a legacy becomes a living thing, a viable, and vital, sustaining
Too abstract? Let me give you just a couple of examples of Ford's
many enduring legacies. I'll present the two that, I believe, are
most critical for Ford's revitalization.
They are products and pride.
Products comes first since that's what we're all about. Henry
Ford's vision was totally centered on providing truly technically
advanced, quality cars and trucks at the lowest possible prices.
The first Model T was truly leading edge technology.
It used new lightweight, high strength alloys, an engine block
and crankcase as a single unit, removable cylinder heads, planetary
gear transmission, and much more.
It was remarkably durable, dependable and truly loved by its owners.
A great indication of how loved this car was is that most people
called it the "Tin Lizzie."
"Lizzie" was a popular slang term for a good and faithful
servant. That was the ultimate compliment. Here was the first servant
millions of working families who had never had a servant of any
Henry Ford's favorite story was about the farmer who said he wanted
to be buried in his Model T. When asked why, he explained -- "That
car has gotten me out of every hole I've ever gotten into."
Well, we've gotten ourselves in a bit of a hole again, and again
we are getting back to our traditional focus on product to revitalize
Not that we're in any hole when it comes to outstanding products
We already have the number-one selling vehicle in the U.S., the
legendary Ford F-Series. We have the number one SUV in the Ford
Explorer. And seven of the 20 top selling vehicles in the U.S.
Yet we're going to go further, much further.
This year in the U.S. we introduced 16 new and advanced design
cars at our auto shows about three times the number that we introduce
in a typical year. In the next five years we're going to debut
35 new Premier models in the U.S. I'm talking about Volvos, Jaguars,
Land Rovers and Aston Martins.
And over the next five years we'll bring out 65 new Ford, Lincoln,
and Mercury products.
That's one hundred new vehicles in five years, the most in any
period of our hundred-year history.
So we are building on our heritage, a tradition that includes
not only the Model T, but icons such as the Mustang, Thunderbird,
Lincoln, Mercury Cougar, Continental, Focus, the F-Series, and,
of course, Atlanta's Taurus.
We truly offer a complete smorgasbord for every taste and temperament.
My cousin Bill said it best. He said, "Our revitalization
is centered on products. If you look back at our 100-year history,
great products made us what we are, and they will take us where
we're going in the future."
So product is our passport to the future, yet it is our family
pride that will make it all happen.
Yes, I said, "family" pride. Pride in the extended family
we call Ford Motor Company.
Literally and figuratively, Ford is a family business.
Of all the hundreds of auto companies that began in the early
part of the last century, only a handful still exist today, and
of those, Ford is the only one with a member of the founding family
at the helm.
Even more, there has never been a single day in the entire one
hundred years of our history when we didn't have a Ford family
member working within our company.
What's the significance of that?
Well, while most people think America has become a nation dominated
by mega-corporations and conglomerates, nothing could be further
from the truth.
Family businesses account for half of this nation's gross domestic
product, two thirds of all wages, and 80 to 90 percent of all companies.
They are truly our nation's backbone.
People trust family businesses for good reasons. They know that
when a family name is over the door, there is far more than money
involved. There is identity, and family pride at stake.
And that's true of our dealer and supplier communities, as the
vast majority of them are family businesses, as well. The identification
between our family businesses is personal and often profound.
And it's equally true of our employees.
Everywhere I go in Ford people approach me with stories about
when their father or grandfather worked at Ford, or how they personally
met my grandfather or my father or other family members.
In every plant we have scores of people who are third, fourth,
fifth, and even sixth generation Ford people. And that's especially
true here in Atlanta, where we've been assembling cars since 1909.
This continuity... this sense of Ford Motor Company as our extended
family... runs exceedingly deep.
So Ford is the largest extended family in the world, and over
the past hundred years generation after generation has contributed
their lives and earned their livelihoods in our global family.
We take great pride in the special relationships we have with
our employees, our union partners, our suppliers and dealers, and
in our enduring relationships with millions of customers based
on generations of committed service.
And, yes, it all began with one man.
Will Rogers once said about Henry Ford: "It will take a hundred
years to tell whether he helped us or hurt us, but he certainly
didn't leave us where he found us."
Well, it's been a hundred years, and I believe the answer is self-evident.
Henry Ford did make a difference... yet the same is true of Ford
people throughout our history, and those who are making a difference
Very few can be said to "leave us where he [ or she ] found
Ford is the second largest auto company in the world. You can't
get much more established than that. Yet we are proud people, with
a well-earned reputation as Detroit's "mustangs" and "mavericks," a
family willing to take chances on innovative products.
"Products and pride"-- those are our strengths, our
heritage, our reason for celebrating Ford's one hundredth anniversary.
On behalf of the Ford family, and the extended family known throughout
the world as Ford, we thank you for being here, and I wish you
Godspeed in the second Ford century.
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