15 Fascinating Facts About the Ford Company You Probably Don't Know

Written by Jim Belt in Trucks

When you think of Ford, images of the ultra-tough F-Series trucks, the iconic Mustang pony car and the legendary blue oval logo likely come to mind. But there's a whole lot more to this pioneering American automaker than just its iconic vehicles. Here are 15 fascinating facts about the Ford Motor Company that will definitely surprise you.

15. It Pioneered Manufacturing Methods

Ford wasn't just an automaker, it revolutionized how things were built entirely. The company was an early pioneer and ardent adopter of modern, efficient manufacturing methods that are still used today like the moving assembly line, vertical integration of parts suppliers, and mass production techniques. It allowed affordable cars to be built at volumes never before seen, putting vehicle ownership within reach of average Americans.

14. It Operates a Huge Buffalo Herd

In a rather surprising side venture outside of the auto industry, Ford operates one of America's largest ranches for buffalo, also known as bison. The automaker's Honey Creek Ranch in Michigan spans a massive 3,000 acres and maintains a herd of around 500 buffalo. The ranch helps preserve the iconic species and provides a sustainable source of lean bison meat.

13. It Has a Massive Research Operation

Ford doesn't just build cars and trucks, it conducts extensive research across a huge array of fields. The automaker's research and engineering center spans over 600 acres and includes facilities totaling over 9 million square feet of space. This massive complex tackles everything from developing alternative fuels to testing new manufacturing methods.

12. It Helped Advance Pre-Natal Surgery

In a rather unexpected medical breakthrough in 1999, Ford partnered with German doctors to carry out the first-ever successful surgery on a prenatal patient still inside the womb. The automaker's expertise in machine guidance systems, sensors, and computer imaging assisted the surgical team, pioneering a new frontier in fetal care and therapy.

11. It Has the Oldest Design Studio

While many automakers have design studios, few can claim their creative spaces have the historical pedigree of Ford's Louden Studio complex. This cluster of buildings has been continually operating as Ford's central automotive design hub since 1957, making it one of the oldest such facilities in the world still in active use today.

10. It's a Massive Employer

With its truly global scale and breadth of products and services, it's no surprise that Ford has a staggering employee headcount numbering 186,000 workers around the world. If it were a city, Ford would rank as the fifth-largest in its home state of Michigan, only trailing cities like Detroit, Grand Rapids, Warren and Sterling Heights.

9. Origins of "Built Ford Tough"

One of the most famous automotive advertising slogans of all time, Ford's iconic "Built Ford Tough" mantra wasn't cooked up by some hotshot Madison Avenue executive, but rather an unconventional creative team led by future novelist Walter Kern in 1976. The gritty tagline was crafted to promote the explosive new F-Series Super Cab truck.

8. It Pioneered Affordable Luxury

While luxury automakers had traditionally catered to the ultra-wealthy, Ford was one of the first to bring premium features and pampering amenities to the mass market. Models like the Continental and Thunderbird in the 1950s offered things like power seats, whitewall tires and chrome exterior trim at relatively affordable prices.

7. The F-Series Is the Best-Selling Truck

Ford's F-Series pickup truck juggernaut has been the best-selling truck in America for over 40 consecutive years now, a stunning streak of dominance eclipsing all rivals. Today's aluminum-bodied F-150 continues that sales reign, constantly evolving with innovations.

6. It Has a Massive Machine Shop

Producing millions of vehicles annually requires machining capabilities on an epic scale, which is why Ford operates the third-largest industrial machine tool facility in the world. Its mammoth Van Dyke Transmission Plant spans over 4 million square feet and produces a staggering 1.5 million transmission units per year.

5. It Makes More Than Just Cars

While consumer vehicles comprise its core business, Ford's expertise extends far beyond just building cars and trucks. The company's manufacturing operations also produce commercial trucks, automotive components and parts, military vehicles and equipment, and even portable water purification systems for humanitarian relief efforts.

4. Henry Ford Was a Prolific Inventor

Henry Ford, the visionary founder of the company bearing his name, was much more than just a pioneering industrialist and entrepreneur. He was also a prolific inventor who secured 161 patents over his lifetime covering innovations like the automobile transmission, steering wheels, and ignition systems among many others.

3. The Model T Put the World on Wheels

Before the iPhone or the personal computer, it was the Ford Model T that truly launched a mobile revolution and put affordable transportation within reach of the masses. Over its staggering 19-year production run from 1908 to 1927, some 15 million examples of the iconic "Tin Lizzie" Model T were produced, cementing its legacy as one of the best-selling vehicles of all time.

2. Its First Product Wasn't a Car

Although it would go on to become one of the world's preeminent automakers, Ford's very first commercially-produced product was not an automobile at all. Way back in 1896, the company started by manufacturing a portable gasoline-powered truck called the Ford Quadricycle.

1. It's One of the Oldest Automakers

With roots tracing back over 119 years to its establishment in 1903, the Ford Motor Company proudly ranks as one of the oldest and most pioneering automakers in the entire world. Even as it reaches its 120th birthday, Ford continues pushing mobility into the future.

From humble beginnings as a portable gasoline engine company to becoming a global titan pioneering everything from affordable luxury to pre-natal surgery, there's clearly far more to the Ford story than most realize. This American auto legend is full of fascinating surprises.