On the Road Again

Electric cars seem to offer a solution to the problem of the internal combustion engine. But technological advances have other consequences. 

Ben Jones

There is growing opinion that, in the global car industry, now facing a period of extraordinary change, history will repeat itself. The electric revolution appears poised on the brink of transforming the world of mobility. Yet, while companies such as Elon Musk’s US-based Tesla are using and developing cutting-edge technologies, they are also turning to tried and trusted business models, which would have been familiar to Henry Ford and Alfred Sloan.

This is unsurprising: it is hard to think of a more defining image in automotive history than the Model T motor car being produced on moving assembly lines at Ford’s gigantic Highland Park factory in Detroit. Ford organised production as a continuous flow, epitomised by the mechanically powered conveyor belt, which, in 1913, became the basis for mass car assembly, copied by corporations around the world. But what ultimately mattered was the scale he achieved. Ford broke record after record, passing in 1920 a factory output of a million cars in just one year.


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