Throughout the twentieth century, the automobile played a critical role in transforming American society. Automobiles fueled economic development, spurred tourism, and provided better medical care to rural areas. In the 1980s, the motor vehicle industry provided one out of six jobs. The industry also revolutionized the steel industry and helped drive the growth of the petroleum industry.
In the United States, automobiles were the primary means of transportation for the majority of people. They are usually four wheeled vehicles, powered by an internal combustion engine. The automobile has evolved from a simple bicycle-like contraption to a sophisticated technical system requiring thousands of component parts. The automobile’s design depends on the intended use, the size of the engine, and the weight distribution. The automobile is often used for passenger transportation, but is also used for transportation of goods.
The first automobile was built by Nicolas Joseph Cugnot in 1769. He received recognition from the Automobile Club de France, and his car was recognized by the British Royal Automobile Club. His car’s front-mounted engine was a crude carburetor and his design reportedly ran at 10 miles per hour for a short period of time.
In the late 1800s, German engineers developed a more efficient gas engine. Nikolaus Otto co-owned a gasmotorenfabrik in 1872, and he claims to have built the first motorcycle. In 1893, J. Frank and Charles Duryea designed the first successful gasoline automobile in the United States.
The automobile industry was initially dominated by American manufacturers. In the 1920s, Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler became the “Big Three” auto manufacturers. Their manufacturing tradition enabled cars to be produced at low prices and allowed automobiles to be affordable for middle-class families.
The automobile industry was also the biggest consumer of many industrial products. It provided one out of six jobs in the 1980s, and was the backbone of a consumer goods-oriented society. The automotive industry became the biggest customer of the steel industry in the 1920s, and became the lifeblood of the petroleum industry in the 1920s and 1930s.
The automobile industry also brought new medical care and education to rural areas of America. The automobile and trucking industry was instrumental in the development of a modern city. The Interstate Highway Act of 1956 was the largest public works program in history, and the automobile industry was the main driving force behind it.
The automobile industry became the world’s largest consumer of petroleum products in the 1920s and 1930s, and it became the backbone of the new consumer goods-oriented society of the 1920s and 1930s. The automobile industry ranked first in value of product by the mid-1920s. However, the quality of postwar cars began to deteriorate in the mid-1960s. The cars lacked desirable aesthetics and had many safety-related defects.
After World War II, the automobile industry increased its production in Japan and Europe. Automobile production soared in the United States, and a higher per capita income encouraged demand for automobiles. However, escalating gasoline prices, federal standards for automotive safety, and high energy consumption in the 1970s and 1980s drove up the cost of gasoline, and the industry became a significant source of air pollution.