HOW HENRY FORD HELD UP THE TRAFFIC
The Model A Ford was first produced on October 20, 1927 but not sold until December 2, when it replaced the venerable Model T, which had been produced for 18 years.
The Model A came in a wide variety of styles: Coupe (Standard and Deluxe), Business Coupe, Sport Coupe, Roadster Coupe (Standard and Deluxe), Convertible Cabriolet, Convertible Sedan, Phaeton (Standard and Deluxe), Tudor (Standard and Deluxe), Town Car, Fordor (2-window) (Standard and Deluxe), Fordor (3-window) (Standard and Deluxe), Victoria, Station Wagon, Taxicab, Truck, and Commercial.
The launch of the Model A was preceded by much speculation and excitement, as evidenced in the newspaper reports of the day - see below.HIST! That must be one of Henry's new cars!" "Where? Sure enough, thar she blows! Shiver my timbers!" " Let's get a good look at it." "Hurry up and lend me those binoculars."
"Wait a minute till I get a focus on it." Exclamations of this general character, one gathers, were probably bandied in a group of motorists in Dearborn who became excited over the spectacle of "a new experimental car," which "happened to be parked one day in an inclosure near the Ford Administration building." People in cars on the roadway several blocks away, according to a Detroit correspondent of the New York Sun, "were using field glasses to try to see what it looked like, while others had their cars parked on other parts of the highway and waited in the hope of catching a glimpse of it." Apparently this flurry was a false alarm, but it serves as a vivid illustration of the suspense into which the nation managed to work itself over the "mystery" of the new Ford car. In the words of one editor:
"Mr. Ford's 'mystery' advertising may be costing him lots of money through the idleness of his plants, but it certainly is working well." And then, as proof, he cites this ironic skit from London Punch:
We gather from the press that the new Ford car will have a four-cylinder engine, overhead valves, a three-speed gear-box, a multiple-disk clutch and several new stories. But you're not to tell anybody, as all this is at present a profound secret.
A few days after the Dearborn incident cited above, the following came from the same correspondent:
A train loaded with Michigan dealers was backed into a siding at the Highland Park plant. They were taken into the factory and allowed a glimpse of the new model, but the entire proceedings were understood to be secret, and nothing was divulged.
The long-awaited announcement appears to be nearer than it was, however, and Detroit lives in day-to-day suspense of its coming. In the last week the business prognosticators have seen fit to credit Mr. Ford with being a much greater factor in the general business situation than was thought possible, and have heightened the impression that his "comeback" is being engineered with the craft and patience of which he alone among the automobile makers is capable. The conviction grows, too, that the number of cars that the entire industry is short on the present year's production—half a million or so—is due solely to Model T being out of the market— and that his competitors have not filled the gap left thereby. Altho several of them have prospered, it has cost them more to operate than in any previous year, and they have been forced to concentrate on increasing volume as never before.
It is also pointed out that now, while nearly all the plants outside of those operated by the Dearborn manufacturer are scaling down their output and laying off men, the Ford total has been climbing, has reached more than 70,000 men, as compared with 90,000 at the peak of Model T operations, and according to indications is to keep right on increasing.
While expansion at home has been gaining headway, reports from abroad show that not only in the United States have assembly facilities been revamped and increased on a larger scale to take care of the 12,000 daily output for which Ford has tooled up, but his foreign assembly branches are adding to their capacity. One of the largest of these additions is a new plant at Yokohama, Japan, for which a contract has been let. It is to cost $2,000,000, and is to be ready for operation by next summer.
Dyed-in-the-wool Ford users, writes John C. Wetmore in the same paper, can hardly wait for the time when they can exchange their old cars for the new ones; but the emotion experienced by the dealers, he intimates, is something stronger than mere impatience. Thus—
Some motor-car dealers are now showing a sad lack of philosophy, common sense and business reasoning over the very natural slow-down in sales pending the coming of the new Ford models. This, however, is only a temporary trade condition and was to be expected with new cars and prices promised by so great a factory in the industry as the Ford Motor Company.
Ford agents must patiently await the coming of the harvest. So must sellers of other makes for the end of the period of indecision on the part of some of their followers. For both classes of dealers there is a bright rainbow of promise in the sky of a good time coming when the new Fords begin arriving, and when regular customers for other makes have resumed the purchase of existing favorites. The present slow-down is not worthy to be called a trade storm. It is really only a short autumn shower.
Several times in the past the motor-car industry has come through periods of doubt and worry, which were always immediately followed by renewed and redoubled prosperity.
History is bound to repeat itself, particularly in the motor industry, whose growth has been so steady and setbacks so few. So I prophesy that 1928 will be a boom year, with Ford again in full swing and delayed buying of other makes at an end.
Do not forget either that tho now Ford is the motor trade's greatest trouble, next year the resumption of the outpouring of Ford's millions in many business directions will be sufficient to turn the business scales into prosperity for the country at large, in which all will share and, most of all, the automobile industry.
Quoting the Ford Company's announcement that it already has tentative orders for 375,000 cars, a Detroit correspondent of the New York Times wrote on October 21, when the first new car was viewed privately by Henry and Edsel Ford, and several other officials of the Ford Motor company:
The new Ford no more resembles the car formerly turned out by the company than a graceful porpoise resembles a whale. It is a smart-looking automobile, low and rakish and is thoroughly up-to-the-minute in appearance. It can make fifty miles an hour easily, and sixty if prest.
Henry Ford wore a happy smile as the first new car came to the end of its production journey. It was one of the first he had displayed since May 26 last, when the production of model T ceased. In the meantime it is estimated that he has expended many millions in rearranging the Ford plant and business, and that 10,000 dealers in the period not only have been without cars but have lost a sum that in the aggregate runs into many millions.
Tho the Ford has been off the market nearly five months, at the present moment it is in third position or better in retail sales in the low-priced field in several cities. Through rearrangement of machinery and introduction of higher-speed tools the company will be able to turn out 11,000 cars or more daily, as against a maximum schedule of 8,000 under the old scheme of production. In 300 working days it will be able to turn out more than 3,000,000 cars.
Production for the time being is necessarily limited. At present about twenty cars daily are being turned out, complete with bodies. This number will gradually be increased, and in two or three weeks should mount to at least 100 cars daily. From fifty to sixty thousand cars of the different models will be needed to supply dealers for display purposes alone.
For the present, production will be confined to closed cars of the sedan type, but it is expected that quantity production will be attained before the end of the year at a rate of at least 2,000 and possibly 5,000 cars a day.
The Literary Digest for November 12, 1927
1920's AUTOMOBILE RESOURCES
Henry Ford Autobiography
MY LIFE AND WORK - by Henry Ford. A fascinating look behind the scenes at the birth of the automobile industry.
Automotive Industry Events of 1922
Press releases detailing management changes and technological advances of 1922.
List of 1922 Automobiles
Full List of Car Makes and Prices in 1922.