DEARBORN, Mich. — Ford Motor Credit Company celebrated Friday its 50th anniversary. It was incorporated as Ford Motor Company's financing subsidiary on Aug. 20, 1959, dedicated to supporting Ford, its dealers and its customers.

What began with 12 employees and a few offices became one of the world's leading automotive finance companies. Headquartered in Dearborn, Mich., Ford Credit today has about 9,000 employees and has a $100 billion loan and lease portfolio as of June 30, 2009.

"When Ford Motor Company formed Ford Credit in 1959, we created a global partner dedicated to the sale of Ford cars and trucks — a very smart move," said Alan Mulally, Ford president and CEO. "Today, Ford Credit is more than ever a strategic asset for Ford. As we move forward together to achieve profitable growth for all, it is wonderful to know that our dealers and customers are in their capable hands."

Ford Credit has remained steadfast and true to its original mission, including throughout the recent unprecedented turmoil in the automotive and financial services industries.

"Through 50 years of changing economic, political and business conditions, Ford Credit has provided consistent profits and dividends that support Ford's product development, and a reliable source of financing for dealers and customers," said Mike Bannister, Ford Credit chairman and CEO and executive vice president of Ford Motor Company.

Ford's first foray into auto financing was its U.S. Weekly Purchase Plan in 1923. It established the Universal Credit Company in 1928 to help sell its new Model A, but sold the company in 1933. Ford had various financing arrangements around the world dating to the 1920s when it launched Ford Credit in 1959. Ford Credit would consolidate those operations and expand to new markets to ensure Ford's dealers and customers had sufficient affordable financing.

In 1959, Ford Credit faced formidable established competition, but it had a key advantage: It could design a modern finance company with the latest technology and best industry practices from the start. Ford Credit had the auto finance industry's first centralized, computerized management information system. The cost savings, plus the close, rapid monitoring it allowed, helped Ford Credit be efficient from the beginning.

In North America, the new company established three U.S. branches in 1959, financing its first vehicle, a 1960 Mercury Monterey, in Indianapolis. It grew from there. In the 1960s Ford Credit took over Ford's financing operations in South America, the Middle East, Asia and Europe, including the company's longest continuously operating finance unit, Ford Bank Germany, which opened in 1926. Ford Credit also has entered new markets globally, including its most recent launch of financing operations in China in 2005.

Ford Credit offers a range of products and services globally. It provides consumer and commercial vehicle loans and leases; dealer inventory, capital and facility financing; insurance; service plans and other specialty products; and dealer training and consultation.

"The employees of Ford Credit have been the heart of our business for 50 years, producing our strong processes, outstanding risk management and superior servicing," Bannister said. "Ford Credit's focus today is the same as in 1959 — putting people around the world into new Ford cars and trucks. We are proud of our past and building for the future."