Re: USA: Ford Celebrates 300 Millionth Vehicle
On the line where Ford Motor Co. has made cars for 74 years, a milestone was reached Tuesday: No. 300 million
November 19, 2003
BY DAVID LYMAN
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
It was like a coronation, Detroit style.
Instead of lords and ladies, though, it was politicians and auto executives lining up at the Dearborn Assembly Plant on Tuesday afternoon to celebrate Ford's 300 millionth vehicle.
One after another, Mustangs rolled under the 300 millionth banner hanging over Customer Acceptance Line No. 6, where cars undergo final inspections.
And suddenly, there it was: a 2004 Mustang GT. Convertible, crimson red, although insiders refer to the more-maroon-than-red color as "merlot."
The crowd oohed and ahhed. They applauded. Ford Chairman Bill Ford called it his "dream car."
But forgetthe hoopla and flashing cameras and back-slapping, it was that number.
That's more than one vehicle for every man, woman and child in the United States. It means that the company has cranked out 5.7 vehicles per minute, 24/7 for more than a hundred years.
Don't believe it? Let's do the math.
# 1 hour equals 60 minutes.
# 1 day equals 1,440 minutes (24 x 60).
# 1 year equals 525,960 minutes (1,440 x 365.25; the 0.25 is for leap years).
# 1 century equals 52,596,000 minutes.
Take those 300 million vehicles and divide them into 52.596 million minutes and . . . well, there you are. That's 5.7 cars per minute. For more than 100 years.
Working the line
The enormity of the event was felt even more profoundly a couple hundred yards away, on the line where auto workers have been assembling cars for 74 years, ever since Henry Ford started making the Model A in this sprawling, wheezing complex in 1929.
It's amazingly noisy back here.
There's a constant whining and whirring and clatter of tools and parts, mixed with explosive bursts of air from aged compressors. The plant is expected to close in May 2004, but there is no sign of that as the line moves steadily, 20 feet per minute, 47 cars per hour, including No. 300,000,000.
"I never get tired of this," says German Martin, 39, of Westland. He joined Ford five years ago. But since 2001, he's been one of the guys who puts the pony onthe Mustang. For outsiders, that means he mounts the silvery 6-by-2 1/2-inch pony emblem on the front of most Mustangs that roll out of here.
Martin sheepishly admits that he drives a battered old Nissan -- "I got it before I started here." And the only reason he hasn't dumped it, he says, is that he is saving for a Ford. A Mustang. A Cobra.
"A convertible. Silver. Loaded," he says. "Very sweet."
It's hard to say whether Martin put the pony on the 300 millionth car. It's a ceremonial car, meaning it wasn't really built Tuesday. With 110 factories in 25 countries on six continents manufacturing simultaneously, there was no way Ford could hope to nail downthe actual milestone vehicle.
So they took their third-quarter production figures, projected numbers for the fourth quarter and just picked a car. Conveniently, it was close to home.
No word yet on where the car will end up, though if it is like other commemorative vehicles, it will remain company property and be trotted out for special occasions.
Purists are sure to say that 300 million is exaggeration. And it's true that not all of the vehicles wore the Ford nameplate. But all of them were vehicles manufactured by the Ford Motor Co. In other words, the number includes Volvos manufactured since Ford acquired the company in 1999 and Land Rovers since it was bought in 2000. All the others are there, too; Lincoln (1922), Jaguar (1990), Aston Martin (1987) and Ford-manufactured Mazdas (1992), including the Tribute and Mazda6.
That doesn't make any difference to men and women on the line. What matters is that it is theirs. And that today's Mustangs, according to many who have worked there for years, are the best they've ever built.
"The Mustang is an icon," says Joe Panick, 52, of Detroit, who has spent 31 years at Ford, most of them on the Mustang line. "I love this car or I wouldn't have stayed here so long."
With seven kids, though, he's never owned one.
"I could never get them all in there," he says, "so I've had to own vans and a truck."
But Daniel, his youngest child, turns 19 on Dec. 5 and hopes to join the Coast Guard.
"Maybe it's finally my time, you know?" says Panick.
Back at the official party, there's lots of self-congratulation going on.
And while Bill Ford puts on a positive face, he makes only a passing reference to the difficult year the company has experienced.
Like other U.S. manufacturers, Ford's market share has slipped. And just a week ago, Standard & Poor's Corp. downgraded Ford's bond rating to "BBB-minus," one level above junk, but with a stable outlook.
No mention of that Tuesday, though.
"The people who have counted us out recently are going to be surprised by what they see," said Ford. "We'll have 40 new products next year worldwide. And in the next five years, we'll have more than 200 new products worldwide. We're coming back."
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....