The Model T was one of the first automobiles to become widely available to consumers and led to the proliferation of the automobile industry. How did Ford do it, and what other effects did it have on American society?
The Model T and Its Beginnings
Following the founding of the Ford Motor Company in 1903, Ford envisioned a future where anyone making a decent living for themselves could enjoy the benefits an automobile had to offer. To that end, he and a team of engineers set about developing vehicles that offered some of the very same features that we've come to expect today. One of the most important of these features was the introduction of interchangeable parts to the production process.
The Model T and the Modern Assembly Line
The Model T, after its introduction to the market in 1908, went on to become one of the most common vehicles in America and the world at large. This was due in large part to both Ford's vision for an affordable car and the company's use of a production model that was widely unknown at the time, the assembly line. By creating a vehicle that was comparatively modular and utilized interchangeable parts, the production time, and work needed to produce an automobile at the time, could be drastically cut down, thereby saving massively on labor costs and getting units out the door much quicker. As time went on, they further refined their methods, and in 1914, they were able to produce more vehicles than every other automotive company combined.
The Versatility of the Model T
Another of the many factors that helped the Model T achieve widespread success was its versatility. Produced before roads and highways were commonplace, Ford designed the vehicle to perform (and perform well) in a variety of different terrain. It was capable of traversing through shallow water, mud, and hills. Its application wasn't purely limited to transportation either. The Model T was often converted to other uses, most notably as a tractor. Many companies made a living selling conversion kits, with heavy-duty rear ends and wheels designed to make the vehicle as suitable for farm use as possible. Other applications included using the wheel to drive a conveyor belt, run a thresher, or even as a makeshift generator. Other, more unique uses of the vehicle included its conversion into an armored car, its engine used in homemade planes, and adding a set of skis to the front to allow traversal of heavy snowfall.