Automobiles are vehicles with two or four wheels, usually with a seat for the driver and some form of cover for passengers. They are designed for passenger transportation, but they can also be used for cargo. Modern automobiles have evolved from breakthroughs in existing technology, from safety legislation, and from competition between manufacturers throughout the world.
The automobile first came into existence in the early nineteenth century. It was a response to a long-held dream of a self-propelling carriage. In the late 1800s, France and Germany were both successful in developing automobiles. Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler were two of the key figures in the German automobile industry. But it wasn’t until the middle of the twentieth century that the automobile came into its own in the United States.
During this period, the automobile industry became the backbone of a new consumer goods-oriented society. Manufacturers began standardizing their products and processes in order to increase production. Besides that, cheap raw materials helped promote mechanization in industrial processes in the U.S.
By the mid-1920s, the automobile industry was the largest consumer of many industrial products, providing one out of every six jobs in the country. It was the primary customer for steel industries and the lifeblood of the petroleum industry. However, by the end of the decade, the automobile had become saturated in the market.
The automobile’s ability to transport large numbers of passengers, along with its availability for travel, prompted an explosion in tourism-related industries. By the 1940s, the automobile was a major force in the production of war materials, including airplanes, tanks, and other military equipment. Aside from that, the automobile brought urban amenities to rural America, and stimulated outdoor recreation.
While the automotive industry in the United States was still relatively small, it was a dominant force in the development of the American economy in the twentieth century. Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler emerged as the “Big Three” auto companies. Combined, they accounted for more than 80 percent of the output of the motor vehicle industry. Despite that, Ford lost its lead over Chevrolet in 1927.
After World War II, automobile production in the United States and Japan increased dramatically. In fact, by the 1970s, the automobile industry was a global powerhouse. With 70 million passenger cars sold worldwide each year, the automobile has become the primary family transportation in the world.
The automobile industry has evolved from a simple design to a complex technical system. It employs thousands of component parts. Moreover, it uses thousands of research and development engineers and scientists to develop cutting-edge technologies. Today’s modern automobiles employ a wide range of safety, air, and oil pollution controls to prevent accidents.
Nevertheless, the automobile industry had its fair share of challenges. After the Great Depression, it was difficult to compete with Detroit’s Big Three. However, Ford and General Motors were able to overcome their competitors by outpacing them in reconciling state-of-the-art design with a moderate price.