An automobile is a type of self-propelled motor vehicle that carries passengers and goods on land. It is a complex technical system with thousands of components. Modern automobiles are based on the invention of the internal combustion engine. In the late 1700s, a Dutch scientist named Christiaan Huygens invented this technology. The first gasoline-powered automobiles were produced in the United States in 1893.
An automobile’s design depends on the intended use. For example, if the vehicle is designed for off-road usage, it must have the right power and durability to resist extreme operating conditions. Also, the stability of the automobile is dependent on its weight distribution. Typically, the engine is located at the front of the vehicle.
Automobiles have undergone many transformations throughout their history. These innovations have evolved from new technologies, safety legislation, and advances in body, drivetrain, and emission control systems. This has also been driven by competition among automobile manufacturers all over the world. Today, over 70 million passenger cars are manufactured worldwide.
During the first half of the twentieth century, Americans dominated the automobile industry. In the 1920s, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler emerged as the “Big Three” automobile companies. Combined, the three automakers accounted for 80 percent of the industry’s output.
Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing by installing assembly lines in his factory. His goal was to mass produce his Model T, which was introduced in 1908. Over the course of the decade, the Model T ranabout was sold for as little as $575, making it affordable for middle-class families.
By the end of the 1920s, the gasoline-powered automobile had overtaken the streets of Europe. American car production increased to 485,000 vehicles in 1913.
With the advent of the First World War, the automobile industry played a vital role in the nation’s war effort. By the end of the war, 75 essential military items were manufactured by automobile manufacturers. Moreover, the automobile industry became a lifeline for the petroleum industry.
In the years following World War II, the automobile industry soared in Japan and Europe. At the same time, the demand for automobiles in the U.S. grew, bringing better medical care, schools, and tourism to rural America.
Despite the success of automobiles, the industry lost market share to foreign competition. As a result, the number of active automobile manufacturers decreased from 253 in 1908 to 44 in 1929.
In the mid-1920s, the automobile industry ranked first in the value of the product it produced. Consequently, the automobile industry was able to contribute significantly to the economy of the United States. During this period, the automobile industry provided one out of every six jobs. Despite the demand for automobiles, a chronic shortage of skilled labor encouraged mechanization of industrial processes in the United States.
By the 1930s, the automobile industry had become the leading customer of the steel and metal industries. It was also the main consumer of petroleum products. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the construction of highways and streets increased rapidly. During this period, the Interstate Highway Act of 1956 was enacted.