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linkyRemembering the Model T
It’s a matter of record that Henry Ford and his Model T put Americans on wheels. Sure, there were cars being built in the U.S. before the first Ford flivver rolled off its assembly line in Detroit in 1908. What set the Model T apart from most other cars of the day was that it was affordable.
It was affordable, at least in part, because Henry Ford grasped the concept of the assembly line. He used that concept to mass-produce the Model T, refining it as he went along. Ford’s refinements meant that the time required to build a complete car was about 90 minutes. At the very beginning of Model T production, before the assembly line was pressed into service, assembling a Model T required about 12.5 hours.
Naturally, as the Model T gave way to the Model A and subsequent models, the Ford assembly-line process became even more streamlined.
This very much caught the attention of Kiichiro Toyoda, the son of Toyoda Loom Works founder Sakichi Toyoda. He’s the man who created Toyota Motor Corp. Kiichiro studied Henry Ford's book, "My Life and Work" and urged everyone around him to read it.
This continuing fascination with Ford’s assembly procedures was such that Toyota Managing Director Eiji Toyoda visited Ford's River Rouge Plant in 1950 to study the facilities needed for mass production, production technology and methods of production control and plant management.
It’s not too far a stretch to suggest that the result of this, at least in part, was the "Just in Time" manufacturing and supply philosophy that Toyota now uses, a philosophy that makes us very efficient and able to produce high-quality vehicles.
So on the 100th anniversary of the Model T, it seems worth tipping the Toyota hat to Henry Ford and the production techniques he so cleverly harnessed. Those techniques put us all on wheels. And even with all the challenges that the automobile faces today, that’s still a good thing.
- Jon F. Thompson, Editor, Open Road