Ford celebrates 100 years in Ireland

150th Anniversary of the Birth of Company Founder Henry Ford

Ford Ireland is gearing up for big celebrations in April, to mark 100 years since Henry Ford opened the first purpose-built Ford factory on the Marina in Cork.

Ford Ireland are planning a range of activities, events and promotions throughout the year, including a high-profile new marketing campaign featuring Irish-American actor Aidan Quinn.

Ciaran 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. “

Where it all began…

Henry was born in Michigan in 1863 after his family emigrated from Ballinascary near Cork, and from a young age demonstrated a strong interest in mechanics. He set up The Ford Motor Company in Michigan in 1903, and staying true to his Irish roots, Henry subsequently opened a factory in Cork in 1917 under the name Henry Ford & Son Ltd.

To this day, Henry Ford & Son is still the legal name of Ford Ireland and is unique in being the only Ford entity in the world to have its founders name in the title.

With the factory in Cork, Henry hoped to ‘start Ireland along the road to industry’, which he certainly did.

When the factory first became operational, Europe was emerging from war and tractors were urgently needed. The Fordson tractor became the main product produced in Cork at that time, and in 1929 it was considered the largest tractor factory in the world.

But it wasn’t just agricultural vehicles that rolled off the production line. Cork produced the iconic Model T, as well as all the other main Ford vehicles including the Prefect, Anglia, Escort, Cortina and Sierra; which were sold in Europe from the 1930’s up to the 1980’s.

Ford became a well-established and familiar sight on Irish roads, as Ciaran McMahon explains: “The brand’s constant popularity mean that almost every Irish person grew up with a Ford car in the family.”

End of an era…

The depressed car market of the 1970’s and 1980’s, along with import restrictions imposed by the European Economic Community all had an impact. The Cork factory suffered financial hardship and closed its doors in 1984, with the Ford Sierra being the last model produced there.

But the brand remains a strong presence on the automotive scene in Ireland. Ford is still one of the best-selling brands in both the Irish van and car market, and has the widest network of dealers in the country.

Looking to the future…

Ford continues to go from strength-to-strength and are determined to look to the future and plan for the next century of business. They recently announced that they have the largest test fleet of autonomous driving vehicles in the world, and plan to start testing across Europe in 2017.

Ciaran McMahon concludes: “The company is moving from traditional manufacture to being a smart mobility solutions provider as we tackle the global mobility challenges of the 21st century.”


Finlay Motor Group. (2017). FORD CELEBRATES 100 YEARS IN IRELAND. Available: Last accessed 24/02/2017.

Leinster Leader. (2017). 1917 – 2017: Ford celebrates 100 years in Ireland. Available: Last accessed 24/02/2017.

Stephen Rogers. (2017). VIDEO: Ford celebrating 100 years in Ireland. Available: Last accessed 24/02/2017.

Categories: Industry News

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