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The Power of Competition

Posted by on April 7, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, died on this day 65 years ago in Dearborn, Michigan.

Ford is credited for revolutionizing factory production with his assembly-line methods. Most importantly, he helped change how people lived and where they lived by developing the Model T, the world’s first affordable, mass-produced car.

Ford first produced the Model T in 1908, which sold for $850, according to And by the time the last Model T came off the assembly line in 1927, over 15 million had been sold. However, like many corporate trailblazers, Ford’s market dominance began to wane in the 1920s when it fell behind General Motors, which was responding more quickly to consumer demand with newer models.

To this day, Ford still trails GM in automobiles sold annually, but only by a narrow margin. Ford’s star has risen particularly in recent years under the leadership of former Boeing executive, Alan Mulally, who has helped make Ford profitable despite the country’s near economic meltdown. In late 2008 and early 2009, GM took bailout money from the U.S. Government; Ford notably did not.

The Ford and GM 100-year rivalry is longer than any in U.S. corporate history and will surely continue. There is no better fuel for innovation than competition, and no industry better illustrates this cause and effect than the automotive industry.

Thanks to GM’s and Ford’s long-term rivalry – and the competitive threats from Japanese and German car brands over the last three decades – consumers have a lot to be thankful for.

One wonders what Henry Ford would think today if he were behind the wheel of one of Ford’s latest models, such as a Ford Fusion Hybrid (gas and electric), in which he could control much of the dashboard with voice commands.

I bet he’d like the company that still bears his name.