The Ford Motor Company began production of the famed Model T in 1908, a centennial we celebrated with little fanfare last year. By the time production ended in 1927, there were 15 million Tin Lizzies on the road and all of them were painted black.
The company would probably still be producing those cars today, if Henry Ford had had his way, on the assembly line he perfected at the Rouge River plant in Dearborn, Mich. But when customers complained about the dated styling of the "T", the decision was made to switch production to the Model A - and the plant was idled for a year to retool.
Ford and American industry knew nothing of "Just in Time" (JIT) inventory theories back then, so when production of the Model T stopped, the company had huge quantities of all the parts needed to make the car. The decision of Henry Ford was to divide up all the parts and ship them - C.O.D. - to their dealers, without telling the dealers in advance.
Many of those dealers did not stay in business, partly because of the large outlay of cash forced on them for the parts shipments and partly because they had no cars to sell for a year. When the Model A did arrive on the showroom floor, such as it was in those days, Ford only sold about 600,000 of the units, compared to almost 1.2 million of the more reliable Chevrolet.