Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company Logo
  • Founded: 1903

  • Years Operated: 1903-present

  • Headquarters: Dearborn, MI

  • Business: Automobile and parts manufacturer

  • Asbestos Trust: No

  • Bankruptcy Status: Not bankrupt

History

The Ford Motor Company is an iconic American company founded by Henry Ford and 12 investors in 1903 in Dearborn, Michigan. At the time, many businessmen held the opinion that automobiles would never catch on with the American public. However, by October 1903, the company had already gained a $37,000 profit.

Five years later, the company unveiled its Model T, the first popular car in the country. By 1913, the company had opened the Highland Park Plant and introduced the world's first assembly line, a milestone achievement in mass production that allowed Ford to manufacture more than 200,000 vehicles a year. By 1920, the number of cars produced exceeded one million. In the 1920s, the automobile company expanded to open plants in France, South Africa, Austria, Germany and Denmark, and in 1922 it purchased the Lincoln Motor Company, a luxury automobile maker.

Ford, like many companies large and small of the era, was a staunch supporter of the U.S. effort at home to win World War I and World War II. During World War I, the company produced submarine chasers, tanks and cars. In World War II, it made 80 percent of all U.S. B-24 bomber planes.

Ford became a public company in 1956 and that year won a Motor Trend award for vehicle safety improvements. In 1964, the company released its iconic Mustang. A string of Mustang models followed, but gradually the company fell out of favor with the American buying public as foreign car makers infiltrated the U.S. market with new brands and more eye-catching cars. The foreign competitors also delivered more gas mileage at a time when gasoline prices rose throughout the 1970s and '80s.

Despite being hit by the onslaught of competition from overseas, Ford avoided many of the financial pitfalls experienced by competitors, GM and Chrysler. In fact, in 1973 the company's sales reached an all-time high of 2.35 million vehicles. Fifteen years later, its worldwide profits were higher than any other auto company at $5.3 billion.

However, Ford did not experience another long-term successful model after the Mustang until it introduced Taurus in 1985. Taurus's were made for more than two decades until it was succeeded by the Fusion. Among two investments made by the company, it bought Jaguar Cars, Ltd. in 1989 and 10 years later purchased Volvo for $6.45 billion.

In 2001, the Firestone tires on Ford Explorers were recalled because of serious accidents involving vehicle rollovers in which at least 250 people were killed and 3,000 were seriously injured. The auto maker lost $2.1 billion paying for replacement tires. In 2006, it announced a major company restructuring. The restructuring included closing unprofitable plants and mortgaging assets to acquire $23.4 billion to finance product development. In order to regain some lost sales, it brought the Taurus out of its short retirement in 2007 and in the next year sold Jaguar and Land Rover.

In 2009, GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy and received money from the government to emerge from bankruptcy. Ford had been praised for avoiding the fate of its competitors. According to CEO Alan Mulally, bankruptcy was "not an option." Following the company's refusal to jump on the bailout bandwagon, national polls showed that Americans were more likely to buy a Ford. In 2011, the company unveiled its electric version of its already successful Fusion.

However, since the 1980s the Ford Motor Company has been named in thousands of lawsuits as a result of asbestos use in auto parts including brakes, clutches and gaskets. Since it manufactured its first car in 1903, the company has used asbestos-containing parts in its vehicles.

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Litigation & Specific Lawsuits

The majority of lawsuits filed against Ford Motor Company involve the use of chrysotile asbestos in its brakes and clutches. Brake linings were reported by experts to contain 40- to 60-percent asbestos fibers. During brake replacement or repair, the linings are often ground and sanded. This procedure causes dust containing asbestos fibers to enter the air where it is easily swallowed or inhaled.

Nollie Wood and his wife filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company when he developed mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos while working near mechanics who worked on brakes and clutches. Wood was a garage man at the U.S. Post Office Preston Street Garage in Baltimore, Maryland, working there from 1948 to 1952. The vehicles serviced at the garage were Ford vehicles that contained genuine parts. Wood was diagnosed with mesothelioma in January 1990 and died four months later. Experts at trial concluded that. Wood was exposed to asbestos dust generated during routine servicing of brakes and clutches. The jury returned a $6.3 million verdict.

In another lawsuit filed against the auto giant, plaintiff Keith Grewe worked as a mechanic from 1957 to 1992. He worked on Ford brakes weekly and only used genuine replacement parts. He used compressed air to clean out old brake dust and used a hacksaw, file and sandpaper to smooth the asbestos facings before installing. Grewe was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1993 at the age of 56, and passed away nine months later. Medical experts testified that the asbestos in Ford’s brake and clutch parts were a “substantial factor” in the development of his mesothelioma. The jury awarded Grewe more than $8 million dollars in damages.

Fast Fact: Ford played key roles in space exploration. Philco, a subsidiary of Ford Aerospace, developed the "Mission Control" centralized control system for manned spacecraft missions in 1965.

Industries  & Occupations

Occupations most at risk of asbestos exposure from Ford’s auto products are mechanics, specifically those that work with friction products such as brakes and clutches. However, employees and consumers who come in contact with these products at various stages of their production and distribution are also at risk.

For example, factory workers and warehouse employees come in contact with these products on a daily basis. Employees at auto parts stores and junkyards may also be exposed. Consumers who purchase these parts may also be at risk.

Occupations at risk of asbestos exposure from Ford Motor Company products:

Products Types

The asbestos-containing products sold by Ford include:

  • Gaskets
  • Brakes pads
  • Brake linings
  • Clutch facings
  • Transmissions
  • Engines

Product Brands

Ford sold asbestos containing auto parts under the following brands:

  • Ford
  • Ford Authorized Remanufactured
  • Mercury
  • Motorcraft

  1. Ford Motor Company v. Nollie P. Wood, et al. (1997). Retrieved from http://www.courts.state.md.us/opinions/cosa/1998/280s97.pdf
  2. NPR. (2006). A history of the Ford Motor Company. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5168769
  3. Ford Motor Company. (2012). Heritage. Retrieved from http://corporate.ford.com/our-company/heritage

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