The Birth of Ford of Canada
Ford Press Release
Gordon McGregor founded Ford of Canada in 1904.
DEARBORN, Mich. -- Around 1900, when many entrepreneurs were starting up automobile manufacturing both in Canada and the United States, a man named Gordon McGregor realized that Henry Ford had the product and the approach that he wanted.
Of the hundreds of people who tried to establish a viable automobile business, most fell by the wayside by the end of the first decade of the century. Gordon McGregor recognized the decline of the wagon business and the future of the "horseless carriage" when others dismissed it as a passing fad. McGregor founded Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited, the oldest incorporated company manufacturing automobiles in Canada.
McGregor was born in Windsor, Ontario on January 18, 1873. At an early age, he developed a keen instinct that contributed to his great success in the world of business. McGregor's father was William McGregor, President of the Walkerville Wagon Company Limited in Walkerville, Ontario (now Windsor, Ontario). He took over the management of the company in 1901 and, on the death of his father in 1903, Gordon McGregor became president of the company.
At a meeting with his brothers, Walter and Donald, in January 1904, Gordon McGregor said, "There are men in Detroit who say every farmer will soon be using an automobile. I don't see why we can not build them here in the wagon factory." Shortly thereafter he went to his banker friend, John Curry, and discussed his ideas. Together they visited existing manufacturers of automobiles in the Detroit area.
McGregor was most impressed with Henry Ford and the feeling was obviously mutual. His meetings with Ford resulted in McGregor obtaining a personal agreement which allowed him to form and finance a company to manufacture and sell Ford products in Canada. Additionally, he obtained the right to sell Ford products in the then existing British Empire, exclusive of the British Isles. (This farsightedness on the part of McGregor has resulted in Ford of Canada having wholly-owned subsidiaries in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.)
Production of Ford automobiles in Canada started in the Wagon Works on October 10, 1904, and, by the end of the calendar year, 25 cars had been assembled.
In the beginning, parts were shipped from Detroit by barge and hauled to the plant by horse drawn wagons. But bodies and wheels were manufactured in Canada. Gradually more parts were made in Canada. By May 1913, with the opening of an engine plant, all components were being made in Canada.
In those early years of the automobile there was much skepticism, and it was a struggle to make the company a paying proposition. But McGregor did. In the beginning he was known to take a newly assembled car out on the road, sell it and return by train.
In addition to building the business, he actively developed people. A young man, Wallace R. Campbell, whom he hired as bookkeeper, showed promise and was developed to become McGregor's assistant. When Mr. McGregor died, Campbell took over and ran Ford of Canada. In 1929 he became the first Canadian-born President.
With faith in his company, his country and the future, McGregor steadily built his dream and today Ford has become one of the largest industrial organizations in Canada. McGregor constantly gave of himself to community and national interests. No appeal for Church or charity ever found him anything but a willing giver, his philanthropies being as outstanding as his business enterprise.
He saw the company he founded expand from producing 117 cars in its first fiscal year, to 51,341 in 1922. This resulted in almost seven out of 10 cars sold in Canada being built by Ford of Canada. He saw his company become the first automobile manufacturer in Canada to build the complete automobile from raw material to the finished product.
Gordon McGregor died when he was only 49 years old as a result of injuries sustained in a railway accident. Yet, in the 18 years of his involvement in the automobile industry in Canada, he contributed more than any other man of his time.
On October 10, 1904, eight workmen began to build the first Ford automobile in Canada, the 1904 Model C. It was assembled in a converted wagon works in Walkerville, now Windsor, Ontario. According to local lore, each time a car was finished, Ford of Canada founder Gordon McGregor would drive it around until he found a buyer. Then he'd return to initiate work on the next one.