1912, a new startup car maker General Motors opened its shed not too far away from Henry Ford’s ground. Henry, afloat by the successful Model T, was the industry’s leading innovator, bringing cars to the masses while keeping costs low (in 2015 dollars, the cars sold for an estimate of $21,700). By 1927, Ford had sold over 15 million Model T’s, changing the landscape of American culture.
While down the road GM was gaining market share. In 1931, GM dethroned Ford as the leading car manufacturer—and maintained the dominance for the next eight decades. As the ad for one of GM’s Chevy trucks would say: The Company’s sales were “like a rock.” That rock cracked a bit in 2008, when the company dropped to number two in reference to its sales and subsequently filed for bankruptcy. But by 2011, after shedding brands Saturn, Pontiac, and Hummer—and costing U.S. taxpayers $12 billion in bailout funds—GM was back on the road full tank.
Now the race is on to break affordable cars to a new set of people: the rising consumer class in Africa and Asia. Will Ford be able to repeat its history?