Ford Motor (NYSE: F) is an auto and truck manufacturer with manufacturing, product development and/or sales operations in most countries of the world. The Company also has a significant financing arm. Ford Motor is currently led by Executive Chairman William Clay Ford Jr., and President and CEO Alan Mulally, a veteran of Boeing.
When Henry Ford founded his eponymous company in 1903, it was one of 88 such companies in the United States. But Ford quickly rose to prominence in the market by offering more affordable vehicles than most of its competitors, most notably with 1908's Model T. The company also adopted then-revolutionary manufacturing practices, including the first use of the assembly line and the first eight-hour day for its workers. However, the company drew criticism for its often brutal early strikebreaking efforts, and for the highly questionable political beliefs its founder espoused in the years leading up to World War II.
For years, Ford ranked second only to General Motors in global auto sales. But the oil crisis of the 1970s allowed Japanese rivals such as Toyota and Honda to gain a foothold in the U.S. market. After a period of renewed prosperity in the late '80s and throughout the '90s, sales and profits at Ford and other U.S. automakers began to decline in the early 2000s, amid rising gas prices, consumers' preference for more fuel-efficient vehicles, rising labor, health care, and pension costs, and in Ford's case, a series of executive shakeups.
In 2007, Ford was No. 4 in global combined vehicle sales with more than 6.2 million units, behind GM, Toyota, and Germany's Volkswagen. In car sales alone, Ford ranked fifth, behind Honda, selling more than 3.5 million cars in 2007. Fortune magazine ranked Ford the world's 13th largest company in its 2008 Global 500 list.
Through 2008 and 2009, new CEO Mullaly has led Ford into what appears to be an impressive turnaround. Ford was the only major U.S. automaker not to accept government funds, and remains the only one not currently wholly or partly owned by the federal government. Though still burdened by massive debt, the company posted a surprise profit for 2009. The company has begun to roll out a new and well-received line of smaller, more fuel-efficient cars that use the same basic designs throughout all of Ford's global markets.
Ford would like you to think of it as the company that made the wicked cool Thunderbird and legendary Mustang. However, it would be only too happy if you forgot all about how it also made the notorious Edsel, a bellyflop of titanic proportions, and the Pinto, which had an unfortunate tendency to explode.
Brands and Divisions
Ford Motor's current stable of brands includes the flagship Ford line; the Lincoln luxury line, which the company purchased in 1922; Japanese automaker Mazda, in which Ford purchased a controlling interest in 1997; and Volvo, the car division of the Swedish automaker, which Ford purchased in 1999.
In March 2008, Ford sold two British brands it had previously owned, Jaguar and Land Rover, to India's Tata Motors. At the end of 2010, it retired the venerable Mercury brand, which the company had first introduced in the 1930s.
The company also runs Ford Motor Credit, LLC, one of the world's largest auto financing companies; Motorcraft, which manufactures spare parts for many Ford models; and a service and repair company, which operates through Ford's dealerships.
Recent Mentions on Fool.com
- Ford Motor Company (F) Has Tanked 20% Over the Last Year -- but Investors Should Focus on This Inste
- Ford Motor Company Earnings: Profits Down on New Product Costs
- Ford Motor Company Earnings Preview: A Subdued Quarter Is Likely
- 1 Big Emerging Threat to the 2015 Ford F-150
- 3 Value Stocks Near 52-Week Lows Worth Buying