Automobiles are self-propelled motor vehicles that usually have four wheels. They are usually fueled by gasoline. However, electric cars have also been developed.
The development of automobiles in the United States was driven by the emergence of the manufacturing tradition in the United States. It was through the use of mass production techniques that automobiles became more affordable to the average American family. This resulted in a boom in automobile production in the U.S. In the first half of the twentieth century, the “Big Three” automakers dominated the market. These companies were Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler.
The United States was an important contributor to the world wars, and automobile manufacturers made a number of essential military items. For instance, the Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Chrysler were able to assemble 75 essential military vehicles during the First World War. Other important military items produced by the automobile industry included military trucks, tanks, and bombers.
A major turning point in the evolution of the automobile came in the late 1800s. Originally, the automobile was an answer to the 19th century’s dream of a self-propelling carriage. But, a steam engine was inconvenient to start, and its range was short. Thus, a more reliable construction was required.
The advent of cheap raw materials and a chronic shortage of skilled labor paved the way for mechanization of industrial processes. With the advent of assembly lines in the 1920s, automobiles began to be produced at a high rate. While a variety of new automobiles were introduced, the Model T runabout was the most popular. Before the Great Depression, the Model T sold for around $500 and was considered a “farmer’s car” that could be used by middle-class families. After the passage of the Federal Highway Acts in the 1930s, the Model T’s popularity waned as the country urbanized.
The automobile was one of the most universal modern technologies. Since the 1960s, vehicle ownership has increased by an average of five to 10 percent annually. Although the automobile industry has largely grown in the United States, it has been a significant industry in other countries as well. Japan, for example, has been a major contributor to the worldwide growth of the industry. During the 2010s, automobile sales have surged, reaching a record number of 1.43 million units.
The advent of the mass-production techniques enabled the Big Three to build cars at a higher unit volume. Because of the increase in demand, however, the costs of capital increased. At the same time, the social cost of air pollution increased. Moreover, the European Union imposed stricter emission standards on hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide.
In the early 1920s, the Ford Motor Company introduced the Model N, the first gas-powered car with a four-cylinder engine that generated fifteen horsepower. Sales of the Model N increased rapidly and soon the Model N was offered in huge quantities.
As the Model T’s popularity waned, automakers began to introduce more options and body styles. By the 1930s, they had begun incorporating aircraft-inspired designs. Besides offering more sophisticated models, automakers introduced industrial materials and industrialized manufacturing practices.