Why Ford Died

In 1908, Henry Ford rolled the Model T off of his prolific assembly line and into the lives of the average American. In doing so, the American way of life changed dramatically. Gone were the days of horse-drawn buggies and trips that could last for days or even weeks. The automobile could get you as far as you wanted to go and it could get you there fast. Ford Motor Company has been a giant in American history and has played an enormous role in shaping American culture.

Ford has also had its problems. Problems that have shaken the foundations of the company and left it scrambling for higher ground. My intention with this article is to follow Ford’s timeline and see what factor’s have brought an American titan to its knees. Is Ford Motor Company dead? Or is it simply biding it’s time?

By 1957 Ford had had many years of success under its belt. They were confident and had big plans for their latest model, the Edsel. Ford marketed the Edsel like they had never marketed before. Eighteen versions of the Edsel were offered which, at the time was outlandish. Other automakers considered three versions to be improvident. The Edsel was not well received by consumers. It was ugly, costly, impractical and of inferior quality.the Edsel flop cost Ford over $250 million.

Fast forward to the 70’s. The Ford Pinto was Ford’S subcompact car and while it had numerous minor engineering faults one would prove to be fatal. The fuel tank was poorly designed and when impacted at a low rate of speed could rupture, spilling gasoline and creating a fire hazard. Reports came in that multiple Pintos involved in low speed collisions had caught on fire. Making matters worse another engineering flaw made the driver’s side door a weak point and if impacted almost impossible to open. Ford denied liability but finally recalled 1.5 million Pinto’s and Mercury Bobcats. Lawsuits were filed against Ford and Ford ended up paying out $3.5 million in punitive damages.

The Ford Explorer set the bar for SUV’s in the 90s. Unfortunately, it to had a design flaw that caused fatalities. Ford had a successful relationship with Firestone tires and Firestone supplied the tires that came on the Explorer. SUV’s are already a top-heavy vehicle and when the defective tires popped it resulted in rollover crashes. Ford blamed Firestone. Firestone blamed Ford. Ford ultimately issued a voluntary recall on 14.4 million tires and then in 2001 another recall on 13 million more tires. Ford lost $3 billion.

Ford’s recent drop on sales and declining stock value is the result of multiple issues with Ford. The above mentioned issues definitely took their toll. The U.S. also has seen two recessions and gas prices sent consumers scrambling for more gas efficient models. Foreign automakers rolled in and met the demand stealing consumers from American automakers left and right.

With all this being said, Ford has survived this long. Ford has vaguely hinted that they are researching and testing autonomous vehicles and rumors abound that Ford may be at the front of the pack in autonomous vehicle technology. Is Ford dead? Only the future can tell.