It's impossible to ignore Ford's contribution to the car manufacturing business as we know it today. As the inventor of the moving assembly line, which debuted in 1913 for the Model T, Ford has forever shaped the auto industry, taking it from slow, small-scale production toward a fast-paced, large-scale operation.
Founded by Henry Ford in 1903, Ford Motor Company built just a few cars a day in its early years, but got its big break ten years later, when the moving assembly line was introduced. The Ford Model T sold in millions over nearly 20 years, being replaced in 1927 by the Model A — the world's first car with safety glass in the windshield.
The moving assembly line allowed the U.S. automaker to evolve into the giant that it is today, a corporation that spans all regions of the world and all market segments.
In 1922, Ford acquired the Lincoln luxury brand which allowed it to compete with General Motors' Cadillac and with Packard. In 1939, the company set up the Mercury brand as a more upscale alternative to the Ford marque, to compete with GM's Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick.
Many years later (in 2011), Ford closed the Mercury brand but kept Lincoln, which is currently in the midst of a revival process. After the 2000s, Ford also offloaded all the luxury brands it had grouped under the Premier Automotive Group umbrella in 1999. The list includes Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Aston Martin.
The only brands it has kept are Ford, Lincoln, and Troller — an SUV manufacturer based in Brazil. The Ford brand has been present in Europe since the beginning of the 20th century, with strong bases in the UK and Germany — unified since 1967 under the Ford of Europe company.
The company is one of the major players in Europe, thanks to models like the Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo, and Kuga. But the core of its business remains North America, where Ford pickup trucks (the F-Series in general and F-150 in particular) have been dominating the market for a long time. SUVs are essential in the U.S. and Canada, and Ford offers them in all shapes and sizes (from the recently-introduced EcoSport to the gigantic Expedition).
Until 2011, Ford kept is U.S. and European products distinct, but under the leadership of former CEO Alan Mulally, the company launched the "One Ford" plan. The strategy aimed to reduce development and purchasing costs by offering the same car models in global markets. As a result, the latest Fiesta, Focus, Fusion/Mondeo, Escape/Kuga, Edge, and Mustang are the same in all markets where Ford is present — except trim levels and powertrains which vary according to each market.