Henry Ford was an American inventor who is credited with inventing the automobile assembly line. German automaker, Karl Benz, is credited with inventing the first motor vehicle in the late 1880s, but Ford was the man who made it possible for everyday citizens to own one. Before Ford came up with his assembly line process, cars were built one at a time by hand, which was a very costly and inefficient method of production. Ford's assembly line revolutionized the way cars were built, and his methods are still in use today.
In 1886, Benz patented his Motorwagen, which was a four-wheel, two-passenger, self-powered motor coach that was designed to replace the horse and carriage. These vehicles were expertly crafted, but were available to only the wealthiest people of the time. Thanks to Ford, that all changed in 1906. His Ford Motor Company, the first automobile company to use assembly line techniques to build cars. transformed the automobile from an expensive curiosity to a practical tool that could be used to transport people and goods easily and efficiently. His first mass-produced product was the Model T. It remains one of the most sold vehicles ever, and was the first to reach 15 million sales.
Ford's impact on the 20th Century cannot be overstated. At one time it was estimated that nine out of 10 vehicles on American roads were Fords. His cars spurred the American economy like no other single factor. The country's roadways were built in response to the great number of vehicles Ford and subsequent American automakers produced. Additionally, Ford's vehicles created a network of support industries such as parts, repair, and maintenance services. It also caused a revolution in how goods were transported in the country. Henry Ford was a true American icon.