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Detroit Automobile Company

Coordinates: 42°21′57″N 83°04′25″W / 42.365766°N 83.073593°W / 42.365766; -83.073593
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Detroit Automobile Company
FoundedAugust 5, 1899; 124 years ago (1899-08-05)
DefunctNovember 20, 1901 (1901-11-20)
SuccessorHenry Ford Company
HeadquartersDetroit, Michigan

The Detroit Automobile Company (DAC) was an early American automobile manufacturer founded on August 5, 1899, in Detroit, Michigan.[1] It was the first venture of its kind in Detroit.[2] Automotive mechanic Henry Ford attracted the financial backing of twelve investors; Detroit Mayor William Maybury, William H. Murphy and others. As with many early car ventures, the company floundered, and it was dissolved in January 1901.[1] Twenty vehicles were built and $86,000 ($2.61 million in 2019) of investment was lost.[3][4]


The company's first product was a delivery truck, completed in January 1900.


The company was founded with a paid-up capital of $15,000 ($455,490 in 2019).[2] Henry Ford managed the manufacturing plant at 1343 Cass Avenue and Amsterdam in Detroit;[5] initially with no pay until he left his job at the Detroit Edison Company, after which he was given a monthly salary of $150 ($4,555 in 2019).[2][6] He refused to put a car into production until he had perfected it to his satisfaction,[7] infuriating investors who quickly began to lose confidence in Ford's ability to bring a product to market.[7] The company's primary objective was to make a profit for its investors, who had seen the Oldsmobile plant, where the Curved Dash Oldsmobile was built, which was profitable for its owner Samuel Smith.[4]

The company's first product was a gasoline-powered delivery truck engineered by Ford and completed in January 1900.[1] It received favorable coverage in a local newspaper, but was not without its flaws; it was slow, heavy, unreliable and complicated to manufacture.[8] Later in life, Ford recalled this period as one that was driven by profit rather than innovation.[9]

A catalog produced by Detroit Automobile Company in 1900 showed, with a cost analysis, that the automobile was cheaper to maintain and operate than a horse and vehicle.[4] Little is known about the company's designs.[10]

Table 1. Detroit Automobile Car Costs[4]
Original cost $1,000
Cost of operating, 14 cents per mile, 25 miles per day $114
New tires $100
Repairs $50
Painting vehicle four times $100
Horse and Vehicle
Original cost, horse, harness and vehicle $500
Cost of keeping horse five years $1,200
Shoeing the horse $180
Repairs on vehicle, including rubber tires $150
Repairs on harness, $10 per year $50
Painting vehicle four times $100


The Detroit Automobile Company was reorganized into the Henry Ford Company on November 20, 1901, after Ford gained further backing from investors because of his racing success.[10] It later became the Cadillac Company under the ownership of Henry Leland, who came in subsequently after Ford had left.[9][11] The factory location for the Detroit Automobile Company is less than a mile away southeast from Mr. Ford's Piquette Avenue Plant, which opened four years later.


  1. ^ a b c Bryan, Ford R., The Birth of Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford Heritage Association, archived from the original on April 15, 2013, retrieved May 23, 2008
  2. ^ a b c "Months past (an account of Henry Ford's first automobile factory)", History Today, vol. 49, no. 8, p. 50, August 1999
  3. ^ Cabadas, Joe (2004), River Rouge: Ford's Industrial Colossus, MotorBooks/MBI Publishing, p. 17, ISBN 0-7603-1708-9
  4. ^ a b c d Weiss, H. Eugene (2003), Chrysler, Ford, Durant, and Sloan: Founding Giants of the American Automotive Industry, McFarland, pp. 7–9, ISBN 0-7864-1611-4
  5. ^ Location of first Cadillac factory
  6. ^ Peterson, Chester; Beemer, Rodpo (1997), Ford N Series Tractors, MBI Publishing, p. 10, ISBN 0-7603-0289-8
  7. ^ a b Black, Edwin (2007), Internal Combustion, Macmillan, p. 99, ISBN 978-0-312-35908-9
  8. ^ Bryan, Ford Richardson; Evans, Sarah (1995), Henry's Attic: Some Fascinating Gifts to Henry Ford and His Museum, Wayne State University Press, p. 107, ISBN 0-8143-2642-0
  9. ^ a b Ford, Henry; Crowther, Samuel (1922), My Life and Work, Garden City, New York, USA: Garden City Publishing Company, Inc. Various republications, including ISBN 9781406500189. Original is public domain in U.S. Also available at Google Books., p. 37.
  10. ^ a b Weiss, H. Eugene (2003), Chrysler, Ford, Durant, and Sloan: Founding Giants of the American Automotive Industry, pp. 9–10
  11. ^ History of the Ford Motor Company

42°21′57″N 83°04′25″W / 42.365766°N 83.073593°W / 42.365766; -83.073593