May 31, 1929 – Ford heads to the USSR

A historic agreement between Ford Motor Company and the Soviet Union was signed on this day in 1929. It cemented plans for Ford to begin producing cars in the USSR, which was eager to create jobs in the automotive industry. Henry Ford believed the best way to undermine communism was to introduce capitalism, which is why he had no qualms in doing business in the USSR, a country not formally recognized by the U.S. government during diplomatic negotiations. A May 1929 New York Times article quoted Ford saying, “No matter where industry prospers, whether in India or China, or Russia, all the world is bound to catch some good from it.”

Above: The Gorky Automobile Plant (GAZ) today.
Top: The first Ford assembled under license in the USSR leaves the GAZ factory in 1932.

The agreement was signed in Dearborn, Michigan, by Ford executives and Valery U. Meshlauk, vice chairman of the Supreme Council of National Economy, who represented the Soviets. The deal stated that Ford would oversee construction of a production facility at Nizhni Novgorodto where Ford would manufacture the Model A. An assembly plant in Moscow was also to begin operations immediately. In return, the USSR agreed to buy 72,000 unassembled Ford vehicles, along with all the spare parts they would require for nine years, at a total cost of about $30 million. Furthermore, Ford agreed to send engineers and executives to the Soviet Union. The first USSR assembled Fords left the factory in 1932.

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