Ford in Britain the Early Years

By: Kevin Creese

Ford in Britain the Early Years

Ford Arrives in the UK

The Ford motor company first arrived in Britain in the same year as Ford was first founded in the United States (1903). Henry Ford had two model A cars shipped over from Detroit to Liverpool to showcase his new cars in the UK. Sending the cars to the UK achieved exactly what Henry Ford had wanted, he established the first Ford franchise in the UK.

The cars were shown at the Cordingley Automobile Exhibition in the fashionable London borough of Islington. At the show they caught the attention of Aubrey Blakiston who once he had thoroughly inspected the two type A Fords decided to set up the UKs first ever Ford dealer. The new franchise was based at Long Acre in London. Having set up the first UK based Ford dealer Blakiston realised he needed help and employed the mechanically minded Percy Perry. With Blakiston ailing Perry purchased the company and continued to run it. Times were hard with Fords' insistence all payments for stock be made up front, and the heavy cost of importing the cars from the US strong contributors to the financial problems.

Perry Sees the Potential in Ford and Persists

Despite the cash flow difficulties Perry could see the potential to make a profit from Ford automobiles in the UK and persisted with the business. Perry advertised for further investment to bolster the companies struggling finances. His advertisement was successful and with the new found financial strength he was able to purchase the Central Motor Company and move to larger premises in Westminster, London.

Ford Marketing Machine Fuels UK Expansion

In 1908 the Ford Model T made its debut at the 1907 Olympia Motor Exhibition the publicity from this generated more sales in the UK and with Ford now doing very well in the US a great deal more effort was invested into marketing Ford in the UK. The resulting success of this marketing meant that Percy Perry was able to persuade Henry Ford to set up a London Branch of the Ford Motor company. Ford purchased premises in Shaftsbury Avenue, London. Within a year Ford had sold over 400 cars in the UK.

The Ford Dealer Network is established

Perry keen to further build on the success his business was having in partnership with Ford began to establish a Ford dealer network across the UK. The first dealer was established in Southampton in late 1910 and operated by a Mr Percy Hendy. Perry began to build up the Ford dealer network across Britain opening dealerships in many UK towns and Cities including Manchester, Nottingham, Liverpool, Coventry and Leicester. As the dealership network expanded so did the demand placed upon Ford in London.

Ford UK Ltd is Born

With Ford London under an increasing amount of pressure due to the success of the newly formed Ford dealership network. Henry Ford decided to establish the first Ford factory outside of North America. The factory was to be located in Manchester in the North of England. Production at the factory was steady and the factory provided a welcome boast to the local economy. When the factory was first established the men worked on static benches but as time went buy the Manchester Ford Factory moved to the revolutionary moving production line, which is widely thought to be the first of its kind in the UK. This new method of production clearly had a big impact on factory production methods across the UK. The improvements to UK production techniques came just in time for the First World War where they were tested to the limit, as was Ford in the UK

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