In 1903, when Ford began taking orders for its legendary Model-T, the Indiana Auto Company at 34-36 Monument Place in Indianapolis processed one of the earliest orders. In 1914, as part of a plan to decentralize operations and save shipping costs, Ford erected buildings on Washington Street as a regional center where cars would be assembled, sold, and repaired.

Ford Motor Company building, 1915
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society

Retail sales ended in 1916, but cars were assembled on the site until 1932, and Ford used the buildings for administrative purposes until 1942. Subsequent occupants included the P. R. Mallory Company and Indiana Vocational Technical College. In 2019, the structure came under the ownership of TWG Development with the goal of turning the building into a sustainable residential, office, and retail space.

From 1956-1957, Ford made plans to resume assembly operations in Indianapolis and constructed the factory on English Avenue to make steering gear assemblies for all its North American cars. The main building occupied 1,645,000 square feet of land and later was expanded to 1,900,000 square feet. The plant also made bolts and steering gears for trucks.

Aerial view of the Ford Motor Company Steering Gear factory, 1938
Credit: Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society

In 1992, Ford upgraded part of the plant so that it could supply power steering units for cars made in Europe. Ford spent $150 million on the improvement and received a $40,000 state grant for job training and $20 million in tax abatements over a five-year period. By the mid-1990s, Ford employed over 3,000 hourly and salaried personnel.

In 2000, Ford spun off the Indianapolis plant as part of Visteon, a global automotive electronics supplier, which was composed of multiple businesses. Ford took back the Indianapolis eastside plant in fall 2005, as one of 17 money-losing factories that were part of Visteon and created a new entity—Automotive Components Holdings LLC—that included all of them.

Auto manufacturing was moving to smaller plants that operate with lower overheads, and the Indianapolis plant made hydraulic steering systems that became outmoded as Ford and the rest of the automobile industry switched to electronic systems. Within six months after Ford established, Automotive Components Holdings, the Indianapolis plant had lost 300 workers, reducing the workforce to 2,000.

In spring 2006, Ford stated that it sought a buyer for the plant. When no buyer could be found, the auto manufacturer closed the plant and laid off the more than 1,500 workers who remained at the end of 2008. The English Avenue plant was demolished in 2017.

Revised February 2021
 

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