Join Date: May 2001
Speech: Edsel B. Ford Ii At Automotive Press Association Luncheon In Detroit
Let me begin by congratulating and thanking Joe Szczesny and the Automotive Press Association for organizing today's luncheon.
I can think of no place more appropriate for talking about the Ford Centennial than right here where so much of Detroit's history was planned.
The DAC already was well established when my great-grandfather founded Ford Motor Company in 1903. This was "the" place to do business over lunch.
I can just see John and Horace Dodge, Roy Chapin, and Henry Joy all devouring sirloin steaks while Henry Ford sat quietly at the end of the table wearing his suit made of soy-beans, having his regular vegetarian lunch of salad and seeds.
As you may know, in the Ford family I'm the historian. I've been involved in preserving the Ford family legacy for most of my adult life and I appreciate a chance like the centennial 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 caution that "no matter how tall your father was, you have to do your own growing."
And that's been true for my company as well as my family for six generations.
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. Ford Motor Company's focus has always been on the road ahead.
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 made today."
Well, today Ford is not only recounting history, we're making it. For 2003 is both our centennial year, and a year of unprecedented revitalization. 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 a world.
And that's not exaggeration.
Every so often a technology comes along that literally changes the world.
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 concept.
The concept was that working class people should be able to enjoy the fruits of their own labor. The freedom and personal mobility provided by a family car ought to be accessible to the vast majority.
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 world."
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 200 countries.
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.
We now sell upwards of 7 million cars and trucks a year worldwide, including nearly 4 million in North America. That means even with so many new and several long-standing competitors, one of every eight vehicles sold on earth is a Ford, and more than one in five in North America.
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 McDonalds.
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 on...
...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.
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 force.
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 come 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.
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 ourselves.
Not that we're in any hole when it comes to outstanding products right now.
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 top twenty selling vehicles in the U.S. are Fords.
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 PAG 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.
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?
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.
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 have 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 today.
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.