Automobiles are complex, technical systems that include thousands of parts. They are designed for passenger transportation and goods transportation. The most common use of automobiles is for transport.
Automobiles have been around for nearly four centuries. They first appeared in the mid-19th century, but did not gain widespread usage until the twentieth century. In the United States, the automobile emerged as the most important form of personal transportation. During this time, the automobile industry became a critical contributor to the war effort in Europe and the United States. It was also the catalyst for the growth of tourism. As well, it provided better medical care and schooling to rural America, and it stimulated outdoor recreation.
Automobiles were initially conceived as bicycle-like contraptions. Edward Butler built the first commercial three-wheeler in 1884, utilizing a horizontal single-cylinder gasoline engine, a drive chain to the rear wheel, and steerable front wheels. His machine had a rear engine and a seat for passengers. Sylvester Howard Roper developed a similar machine in 1867.
Automobiles have been produced worldwide, and they have evolved over the years as a result of technological breakthroughs and changes in regulations. The most popular types of cars are sports cars, SUVs, minivans, and pickup trucks. Currently, 70 million passenger cars are manufactured each year. Almost half of these cars are made by foreign manufacturers. There are over one thousand car models sold globally.
Today, there are over one trillion miles of vehicle travel every year in the United States alone. One-quarter of all passenger vehicles are sold in the United States. Worldwide, there are over three trillion miles of car travel each year. Automotive transportation is responsible for a large proportion of modern city infrastructure.
Today, the automobile industry is the largest consumer of industrial products in the world. It provides one out of every six jobs in the U.S., and it is a major contributor to the petroleum industry.
In the United States, the automobile industry became the backbone of a new consumer goods-oriented society in the 1920s. It helped change the economic structure of the nation. At that time, the automobile industry ranked first in terms of product value.
Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler formed the so-called “Big Three” auto manufacturers by the 1920s. By the end of the 1930s, they had dominated the market. In fact, by 1936, they held a 43 percent share of the U.S. market.
However, their sales slipped behind Chrysler in 1936, and they lost the lead to Chevrolet by 1927. Nonetheless, Ford remained the leading American automobile producer. For most of the first half of the twentieth century, it was Ford that led the industry, achieving a level of dominance that was unprecedented.
During this period, the company made 100 cars a day, and sold them for only about $575 apiece. This price was less than the average annual wage in the United States. But with Ford’s use of mass production techniques, he was able to make cars more cheaply and more widely available.