The First Henry Ford
Henry Ford's importance to the business world, indeed to the 20th century, cannot be overstated. Henry Ford invented the assembly line, an idea that revolutionized the industrial capacity of the automobile industry, making the automobile affordable to the average American, and transforming American culture in the process. Anne Jardim's The First Henry Ford: A Study in Personality and Business Leadership explores Ford's personal characteristics as the primary motivations behind his business leadership style.
Henry Ford, in addition to being a brilliant innovator, is one of the more complex and often frustrating individuals in 20th century business history. Jardim seeks to answer these questions, issues ignored by other biographers. "Why did he change from a simple and single-minded Yankee mechanic, capable nonetheless of commanding the loyalty and best efforts of his subordinates, to an arrogant, vindictive, and deeply suspicious man, surrounded by compliant subordinates and bent on the dangerous mission of forcing external reality into the mold of his own wishes?".
The book opens at the dawn of the automobile age, when two-dozen men across the United States suddenly began working on what at the time could best be called the "horseless carriage." Ford was different because his automobile was based upon design simplicity. America wanted and needed a simple car for the masses. In 1906, he introduced the Model N, which sold for $500. Two years later, the Model T came out and transformed the nation.
However, the very success of the Model T molded the rest of Ford's career. "Having succeeded so triumphantly he was to entrench himself in a position of such rigidity that he effectively destroyed the great company he had built". The Ford Motor Company became "a morass of despotic, one-man rule" as Ford refused to abandon the Model T until well after demand for the car died. Indeed, Ford did not stop production on the Model T until 1927, and the innovations that Ford had pioneered in its invention stopped completely in 1908.