The Henry Ford Company was Henry Ford's first attempt at a car manufacturing company and was established on November 3, 1901. This became the Cadillac Motor Company on August 22, 1902, after Ford left with the rights to his name. The Ford Motor Company was launched in a converted factory in 1903 with $28,000 (equivalent to $807,000 in 2020) in cash from twelve investors, most notably John and Horace Dodge (who would later found their own car company). The first president was not Ford, but local banker John S. Gray, who was chosen to assuage investors' fears that Ford would leave the new company the way he had left its predecessor. During its early years, the company produced just a few cars a day at its factory on Mack Avenue and later at its factory on Piquette Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. Groups of two or three men worked on each car, assembling it from parts made mostly by supplier companies contracting for Ford. Within a decade, the company would lead the world in the expansion and refinement of the assembly line concept, and Ford soon brought much of the part production in-house (vertical integration).

Henry Ford was 39 years old when he founded the Ford Motor Company, which would go on to become one of the world's largest and most profitable companies. It has been in continuous family control for over 100 years and is one of the largest family-controlled companies in the world.

The first gasoline-powered automobile had been created in 1885 by the German inventor Karl Benz (Benz Patent-Motorwagen). More efficient production methods were needed to make automobiles affordable for the middle class, to which Ford contributed by, for instance, introducing the first moving assembly line in 1913 at the Ford factory in Highland Park.

Between 1903 and 1908, Ford produced the Models A, B, C, F, K, N, R, and S. Hundreds or a few thousand of most of these were sold per year. In 1908, Ford introduced the mass-produced Model T, which totaled millions sold over nearly 20 years. In 1927, Ford replaced the T with the Model A, the first car with safety glass in the windshield. Ford launched the first low-priced car with a V8 engine in 1932.