Early on, Ford seemed to have dominated the car market, with Model Ts being sold hand over fist. But after the initial “wow” of the Model T and Model A, Some American consumers began to want more. Ford created his cars, and thought that no changes would be necessary, so for quite some time, his automobiles went unchanged. Other car companies noticed this flaw, and started to offer other models and options to give Americans a choice with their automobiles.
There were many other automotive companies besides Ford. Everything from General Motors to Chrysler, and American Motors Corporation to Nash and Kaiser. The automotive family tree of just Chrysler Corporation can be seen here from allpar.com:
Too many companies to even remember. Unfortunately, many of these companies went flat early on, because they were not able to compete with the powerhouse of Ford. For our purposes, we will focus on the big 3: Ford, GM, and Chrysler. Diving deeper into the web of companies, fascinatingly, the competition was not against each other the whole time. Some companies even had some insight into Ford and his company.
Two of Chrysler Corporations’ founders, Horace and John Dodge, actually began by working for Ford. The brother’s father was a mechanic for early marine steam engines, and he taught the boys quite a lot about the machining trade. Allpar.com explains more about the Dodge brother’s history, saying that “In 1896, Horace created a dirt-proof ball bearing at his home workbench; he shared credit with John in the patent. The next year, they worked with Fred S. Evans to make a bicycle under the Evans & Dodge name. The brothers, increasingly diverted by sales of automotive parts, returned to Detroit and started their own shop in 1902, after selling their share in the bicycle business; then they moved from Beaubien Street to Hastings and Monroe.” So the Dodge brothers were doing quite well, and knew what they were doing when it came to machinery and parts. This didn’t go unnoticed by Ford, so “he finally approached the Dodge Brothers, who, in light of Ford’s past, drove a hard but fair (given the risks) bargain. The Dodge brothers gave up their other customers, borrowed $75,000 for tooling, and created the production drawings and all mechanical parts for Ford’s new company. (allpar.com). Pretty crazy, right? So Ford’s famous Model T could actually be…………..a Dodge? This gave the Dodge brothers a clear indication of who they were competing against. Furthermore, “Henry Ford eventually built his River Rouge plant to replace the Dodge Brothers — and to swap the Dodge Brothers employees with people making less, and easier to control or replace at a moment’s notice. Once done, Ford did not need the Dodge Brothers. The brothers had already been planning for independence. The Dodge brothers knew the Model T’s weaknesses, and had suggested improvements, but Henry Ford refused. This was their chance to make a far better car, at a slightly higher price.” (allpar.com). Just imagine, the leader in the American auto industry, being helped by [what would be] another company. The Dodge brothers eventually teamed up with Walter P. Chrysler and helped to start not only Dodge, but the Chrysler Corporation as well.
Putting Dodge and Chrysler aside, one of the largest competitions in the auto industry is between Ford and General Motors. General Motors was incorporated in 1908 by William Durant, and his company was much vaster than Ford who only had one model of car at the time. “The new GM was the opposite of Ford: Instead of just making one car, like the Model T, it produced a wide variety of cars for a wide variety of buyers. In its first two years, GM cobbled together 30 companies, including 11 automakers like Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and Oakland (which later became Pontiac), some supplier firms, and even an electric company.” (History.com). Because of all the different companies that made up General Motors, and the different cars that each one offered, the American public finally had some choices in their automobile, while Durant and General Motors was able to profit from each of these companies. Due to this, General Motors did eventually beat Ford as the best automotive company in America, for a short time.
In any industry, competition is always good, because it forces the companies in the industry to continue to come up with new innovations that will ultimately shape American lives. The information here is barely even scratching the surface of the elaborate history of the companies that make up the American Automotive Industry. I urge you to pick your favorite car brand, and look them up. You may be surprised to how things started, and you may even see which two rival companies ultimately began under the same roof. But these rival companies do work together sometimes, especially if the country is in a crisis.
Oh, and how does this all fit into the environment? Well just as it is an afterthought in this post, the auto industry at the time really didn’t mind so much as to how these growing companies interacted with the environment. The race was to become the top dog, regardless of how it affected their surrounding environment.