A surprising centenary: Ford celebrating 100 years in Ireland

Ford has announced it is to hold a number of events throughout this year to mark the centenary of Henry Ford registering his factory in Cork city in 1917.

By Stephen Rogers, Irish Examiner


At the Ford family memorial in Ballinascarthy, Co Cork, is Ford Ireland’s Ciarán McMahon, with ‘old and new’ car models.


The founder of the renowned car brand registered the plant in Cork’s Marina just 14 years after initially setting up his company in Michigan in 1903. It was the first purpose-built Ford factory outside North America.

Henry Ford’s father, William, had emigrated from Ballinascarty in Co. Cork in 1847, so when it came to establishing a base for his business in Europe he chose Cork because he hoped it ‘would start Ireland along the road to industry’.


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 which were sold in Europe from the 30s right up to the 70s and 80s including the Model A, Model BF and Model Y; Prefect; Anglia; Escort; Cortina; and Sierra.


To mark the investment Henry Ford made almost exactly 100 years ago, Ford is now organising a number of activities, promotions and events throughout 2017, with one of the highlights being a Gala Dinner at Cork City Hall on April 21 to mark the actual centenary. Irish-American actor Aidan Quinn will be one of the faces of the campaign this year appearing in a range of online video executions and on radio.


Ciarán McMahon, Ford Ireland’s chairman and managing director, said that, while the factory in the Marina is sadly no more — it closed in 1984 — Ford remains one of the best selling brands in both the van and car markets.

“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,” he said. “And we are still to the forefront in the automotive sector in Ireland with the widest network of dealers, providing employment, directly and indirectly, to some 1,000 people across the country.

“Ford vehicles were and still are a ubiquitous sight on the streets and roads of Ireland all through the 20th century and right up to the present day. The brand’s constant popularity meant that almost every Irish person grew up with a Ford car in the family or had aunts, uncles and neighbours who drove a Ford.”

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