That damned faster horse

If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said, “a faster horse”. — Henry Ford

There’s no evidence that he said it. Quote Investigator has an excellent post sorting out who said similar thingsThe Henry Ford Museum disavows it.

If you pay attention to the quote, “Ford” is saying that he didn’t ask his customers what they wanted, because he made an assumption about what they’d say. That doesn’t seem clever. That seems arrogant.

Buried in the quote is the idea that Ford had customers before he had a product. Customers are people who’ve bought a product. People who are potential customers are simply “the market”.

Before the Model T, there wasn’t a market for an inexpensive car because there was no such thing as an inexpensive car. The Model T initially sold for $825 when the cheapest other contemporary cars sold for between $2000 and $3000. Even at $825, a lot of people couldn’t afford a car. Ford payed his employees double the going rate so they could afford to buy the product they produced.

That is, “Ford” couldn’t have asked his customers what they wanted, because he invented them.

(This was originally posted on an old blog of mine.)

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