Fording the Amazon
The original publication is available at http://www.sajs.co.za/
In 1928, with the Wall Street Crash and the start of the Great Depression only a year away, prospects for the Ford Motor Company still looked rosy. Henry Ford’s celebrated Model T had been a major success. His firm’s new Model A was just around the corner and had already received 700 000 orders. But there were flies in the ointment. Market competition from newer car manufacturers with lower production costs was denting sales and squeezing profits. The wages of Ford’s mass assembly line workers could not be slashed because they were the essential purchasers of the vehicles they produced. Suppliers of key motor components, particularly the big rubber companies of Firestone, Goodyear and General, would not discount their prices. Thus, although Ford’s factories continued to expand, allowing him to maintain his status as the world’s richest man at the pinnacle of his wealth and power, lowering the vehicle production costs was becoming a preoccupation. Yet, the rising demand for rubber after the First World War continually frustrated Ford’s plans.