What made the Model T so successful? Sure, Ford had success with the N, R, and S, but no one could have possibly imagined how successful and influential the T would become. Like anything, I'm sure it's a combination of things and cannot be contributed to one single factor. What do you all think?
I figured I'd start this thread to start a little friendly debate
Assembly line mass production and low cost compared to other hand made autos of the time.
Numerous Ford dealerships and a strong replacement parts availability throughout the nation helped buying a Model T a "safe bet" for the customers' peace of mind.
Price and durability.
Certainly an attractive price point, ease of maintenance, a wide dealer network, ease of operation, and reliability were all key ingredients in the Model T's popularity. You have to wonder how the average worker ever managed to save up enough money to buy one. GM was offering company financing, yet Ford still sold more cars. Could the answer be that the car's attributes were seen by bankers and some Ford dealers as sufficient collateral to warrant extending individuals the loans necessary credit they needed to purchase a new car? The greatest volume of Model T's was produced during the 1920's which also coincided with the greatest expansion of consumer credit in US history to that point. I wonder...
as Michael and Marshall say, price, mass production parts, durability, but..... the car was also a kick to drive, it would jump ahead of most cars on a hill or across an intersection.
it was faster than a lot of cars.
also easy for the owner to maintain.
and they were very light weight compared to other cars its size.
also, the cars before, like the N,R and S were very successful.
Until the Model T, cars were hand made one car at a time, very expensive and called a rich man's toy. While the Model T was not the best, the fastest, the easiest to drive, the most reliable, or the safest car of the time, it was, most importantly, affordable by the common man, thanks to mass production...and tough, thanks to special alloys developed by Ford. Jim Patrick
The T was a big success before the assembly line.
It was a revolutionary car in the beginning. It's power to weight ratio made it one of the most capable cars available. It's size was big enough for a family, but not too heavy or expensive. It was practical and affordable. It was reliable and durable. The flywheel magneto required no battery, and Ford was willing to take some chances to grow the company to meet demand.
It was the right car at the right time.
Ford was the original Ikea manufacturer. At the time other auto manufacturers were shipping fully assembled cars across the nation. Ford was able to break down his vehicles into reassemble-able units at his Branch Assembly Plants.
He was able to manufacture the major components at his factory, ship a large number of unassembled cars to the branch plant, the branch plant warehoused components and complete cars, that would be shipped, at best by rail, to towns in America where dealers would reassemble cars for local clients.
Shipping 50 cars in volume unassembled by rail, allowed more cars on the road than shipping fully assembled cars.
My guess would be the basic quality of the materials that were used to manufacture the simple car. Next I would think the interchangeability of most parts all during the production run.
Ford required new dealers to purchase an inventory of replacement parts along with the new car orders. This served at a excellent public relations effort for car owners. If they encountered a problem they could get a replacement part quickly and most importantly locally, unlike other brands where parts and to be ordered and could take weeks to get the needed part.
And the concept of not changing the chassis over the years by letting new improved parts be interchangeable on older cars made it easier to keep them running back then - and over the depression years, while Chxxxs and others often were scrapped due to unavailability of parts makes T:s plentiful today and the number of potential customers helps keeping the repro parts business running into the future
Dan said it first and with fewest words. Price and durability. If only half the total number were made it would still be remembered for those two things + it would still be the car that put America on wheels.
I think many factors, primarily due to the persistence and foresight of Henry Ford, led to the unparalleled success of the Model T. It's often overlooked that Ford was already the largest producer of automobiles in the world when the T made it's debut.
As mentioned above, materials, dealer network, technical advances all helped make the Model T almost an instant success.
Personally, I think of the Model T in three or four "stages." The first, 1909 through about 1913, the Model T was a moderately priced, well built innovative car. Features such as the removable head and internal magneto along with a very respectable (for the period) horsepower to weight ratio. At $850 in 1909, the Model T was not an inexpensive car, but a good bargain. I also think the 1909-14/15 T had attractive lines, and was quite attractive compared with other cars the medium price range.
The next "stage," 1916-1920, productions methods and the dealer network move the T into the low priced, everyman's car.
After this, I think the T reached the stage that many of our parents and grandparents remember, the utilitarian car that was incredibly inexpensive, reliable, although falling behind in terms of horsepower, features and appearance.
I suspect these iterations of the T help explain why we hobbyists are such a varied group. Some appreciate the early innovative Model T. Some like the first "black T" cars, and some are fans of the later closed black, and improved 26-27 cars. Something for everyone.........
What made the Model T so successful?
So easy to work on, even a "farmer" could keep it alive. I imagine 40+ mph scared the heck out of many, but caused others to smile and want one. Good deal for the money.
I don't think there is anything easy to maintain on a T...what you do is just ignore. If one was to oil, lubricate, adjust everything that is prescribed, then it would a full time job. Instead things just wore and were very forgiving. Bands were a pain as was the ignition system...and fiddling with the fuel system. Let's face it...the T was a marginal form of transportation, but it did keep on running under adverse conditions.
Dave, the Model T produced 20HP, but that was still a lot more than the 1 or 2 HP folks back then were used to. They weren't really scared of it because farmers, mechanics and plant workers were used to the high horsepower made possible for many years by the steam engine.
The Model T was about as fast as a horse in a full gallop, but, as Patton proved in Mexico when pursuing Pancho Villa in 1916, horses tired out. The Model T didn't. Jim Patrick
But Dodges won the day.......
In the robber-baron age when John D. Rockefeller created Standard Oil, Cornelius Vanderbilt developed American railroads and heavy shipping, Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan made their fortunes in steel, and George Westinghouse was exploiting the living daylights out of Nikola Tesla (who basically invented electric house current and most of what it powers), and where the Industrial Revolution was in full swing and people, for whatever reason, yearned to move from farms to factories, the economical-automobile dream of a sharp, competitive visionary like that of Henry Ford almost couldn't miss. _Ransom E. Olds had proven the existence of the market with the Curved Dash Oldsmobile, but Mr. Ford, who surrounded himself with the such engineering genius as József Galamb, Charles Sorensen, Ed Huff, and the financial experience and shrewdness of James J. Couzens, had the brain-power at hand to design it better and cheaper—and the testicular fortitude to do it all in the face of skeptical investors and multiple litigations of staggering consequence.
American roads were lousy and you wouldn't dare operate a heavy luxury car on most of them, but the lightweight Model T didn't care. _In fact, those trails which had been rutted by horse-drawn wagons south of the Mason-Dixon Line were plied by a Flivver manufactured with a wider track to match those ruts. _The national speed limit was well within the Tin Lizzie's capabilities, so her meager 20 horses and basic 2-speed tranny were adequate to the task. _And traffic wasn't going to gather impatiently behind her as she did her 7 mph uphill crawl in low-gear because horse drawn vehicles weren't any faster.
Most Brass-Era cars were owner-maintainable to an extent, but few approached the simplicity of Ford's Flivver and none enjoyed the stockpile of spare parts carried by Ford dealers which sprouted up like weeds across the land. _Henry Ford had the unique ability and inclination to think simple and at the same time, think big.
Victor Hugo is reputed to have said, "There's nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come," and a little later along the timeline of history, Ray Kroc said, "The key to success is to be in the right place at the right time."
Hell- There a good looking car.
Cost, assembly line and demand. This right time and place in history. Tim