"Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black."
Henry Ford issued this statement in 1909. He did so, not because he thought people shouldn’t have a choice of color. He had something else in mind. He made this decision at the same time he decided that his plant would only produce one model of car, the “Model T.”
Ford’s reason for making these decisions was profound. Ford wanted to greatly expand car ownership. To do so, he needed to make the car as affordable and reliable as possible. He did this by limiting variation in the production of cars. Lots of people objected, particularly his sales force who wanted lots of models with lots of variety. They predicted he would go out of business. In the end, he achieved his objective. In 1908 his 1,900 workers produced just over 6,000 cars. In 1911 his 4,100 workers produced just under 35,000 cars. By nearly tripling productivity, Henry Ford opened car ownership to the working class.