Ford was founded on technological innovation. One of the first American carmakers to successfully employ assembly lines, it has since charted many industry firsts. Through its partnership with Cosworth, the company supplied the motors that powered 176 Formula 1 Grand Prix wins. The unparalleled dominance of the GT40 at LeMans in the 1960s - still the only American car ever to win the overall title at the famed endurance race - is still talked about in racing circles around the world. And who can forget the contributions the blue oval made to the World Rally Championship over the last 34 years? All of this success and innovation comes at a price - a very large research and development budget.

Although Toyota holds top spot in global auto sales, the highest automotive R&D budget honors go to Ford, which comes in second in the world - of all companies in any industry - only to Pfizer, the pharmaceutical mega-corporation. Checking in around US$8 billion annually, Ford's research budget surpasses that of both Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft, who round out the top four spots. The newly-renamed Daimler AG claims Europe's top spot with a budget of US$7.34 billion. No other carmakers made it into the top eight spots worldwide, reports The Detroit News.

Even beyond the massive success Ford has achieved over the last century, as the car maker moves into the twenty-first century, it is showing the long legs that come with deep pockets. The Ford S-Max MPV - 2006 Scottish Car of the Year - has been hailed by many automotive journalists as one of the best MPVs to come along in ages. Fit and finish are well above par, styling is conservative but attractive, and most of all, the vehicle is practical and affordable. Ford's Focus, beloved by many die-hard fans, has fared equally well in the European press - where the Euro-spec Focus is a quick, affordable, and fun car in which to do your daily errands. Best of all, you can then put some heat in the tires and a smile on your face on the way home.

However, the question that must be posed, remains. Ford's annual US$8 billion R&D budget would fully fund at least 3 entire seasons of Formula 1 - for all 11 teams, each with 2 primary cars and 1 backup, with their own engine development and construction teams, driver salaries - everything, from buses to bolts, Ford's budget could do the F1 season thrice over in a year. Is that much spending really necessary? After all, Ford isn't looking to make 330km/h MPVs that pull 4g under breaking. They're looking to build people movers for the suburban family.

But, as history has shown, Ford's dedication to technology and its advancement, while not always cheap, has produced some of the most incredible automotive feats of our time. Who are we to quibble with 100 years of automotive expertise? We can only hope that some of the excellence that powers Ford at the top trickles down to the suburban consumer, where the cars have been looking a bit lackluster lately, save for the occasional Mustang.