Automobiles (also called motorcars or autos) are primarily used for transportation of people and goods. They are categorized into passenger cars and commercial vehicles. Most of the modern cars use an internal combustion engine, which powers the car by burning fuel in the form of gasoline or diesel. There are 1.4 billion passenger cars in operation worldwide, and about 70 million are manufactured each year.
In the United States, the automobile became an integral part of everyday life. It brought urban amenities to rural America and spurred tourism-related industries. At the same time, it helped expand medical care and education in rural areas. It also stimulated outdoor recreation. As a result, the industry was a catalyst for social change during the twentieth century. The demand for automobiles grew, and the United States became a world leader in manufacturing.
The first gasoline-powered automobile in the United States was designed by bicycle mechanics J. Frank and Charles Duryea. Their design was sold in 1896. By the early twentieth century, the United States had surpassed Europe as the leading producer of automobiles. This was a result of economic growth and higher per capita income.
After the automobile was introduced to the American public, Henry Ford developed a new way to mass produce cars that would make them affordable for middle-class families. He began installing assembly lines in his factory in 1913 and made the Model T, which sold 15 million coupes before 1927.
The success of the Model T was a turning point in the history of the automobile. By the end of the twentieth century, the industry had become a global enterprise. Automotive production in the United States, Japan and Europe soared after World War II. A large number of manufacturers from Asia and Europe joined the growing industry, including Toyota, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Honda and BMW.
As the twentieth century progressed, the automobile became an important part of the petroleum industry. It was also a key component of the consumer goods-oriented society of the 1920s. For many years, the automobile industry provided one out of every six jobs.
The automobile industry was a major catalyst in the development of the petroleum industry. It became the chief customer for the steel industry and the largest consumer of many industrial products. Moreover, the automobile industry played a major role in the introduction of many safety and emission-control systems, as well as improving the body, chassis, and drivetrain of the automobile.
During the early 1900s, the automotive industry was dominated by three automakers: Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. These three companies accounted for 80 percent of the total industry’s output. However, the automobile industry’s production dropped from 253 cars in 1908 to 44 cars in 1929.
The automobile industry, with the help of standardized components and improved fuel economy, helped the United States and other countries transition from a traditional, largely agricultural society to a more mechanized, industrial one. By the mid-1920s, the automobile industry ranked first in the value of its product.