In 2017 it will be exactly 100 years since Henry Ford established a Ford factory in Cork city, and Ford Ireland will this year mark the centenary with a number of events and campaigns.

Commenting on the centenary, Ciarán McMahon, Chairman and Managing Director of Ford Ireland, said: “Ford has a unique heritage in Ireland, not only through the company’s close family links with Cork but also through the Cork Ford factory, and of course many decades of much-loved Ford cars and vans on Irish roads.”

The Ford Motor Company was set up in Michigan, USA, by Henry Ford in 1903 and just 14 years later Henry opened the first purpose-built Ford factory to be located outside of North America in Cork, Ireland, where his father William had been born before emigrating to America in the 1840s.

In his own words, he hoped that the new Ford plant ‘would start Ireland along the road to industry’.  The setting up of the Ford plant in Cork was the first example of foreign direct investment in Ireland, many decades before the term was even coined.

The company that he legally established was called Henry Ford & Son Ltd. and that continues to be the legal name of Ford in Ireland to this day – the only Ford entity in the world to include the full name of the company’s founder in its title.

The Fordson tractor was the main product produced by the Cork plant, which in 1929 became the largest tractor factory in the world.  However, the factory also produced passenger models, including the iconic Model T. Indeed, the last Model T ever produced by Ford anywhere in the world rolled off the Cork factory production line in December 1928.

In addition to the Model T, the Cork factory also produced all the other main Ford vehicles that were sold in Europe from the 1930s, right up to the 1970s and 1980s, including the Model A, Model BF, Model Y, Prefect, Anglia, Escort, Cortina and Sierra.

When Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973, new rules had to be complied with that lifted the previous restrictions on imports of fully built motor vehicles into the country. This, combined with a depressed car market in the late 1970s and early 1980s meant that the plant became no longer viable and it was closed in 1984.

To mark the centenary, a number of promotions and events are planned throughout 2017, with one of the highlights being a gala dinner event at Cork City Hall on April 21st.

Ford has also launched a new marketing campaign featuring the Irish-American actor Aidan Quinn. The campaign will be based around the company’s Irish centenary and encouraging consumers to think about the brand differently.

Caroline Kidd