Contents

  1. When Were Cars Invented?
  2. Henry Ford and William Durant
  3. Model T
  4. Automotive Industry Growing Pains
  5. Car Sales Stall
  6. GM Introduces ‘Planned Obsolescence’
  7. World War II and the Auto Industry
  8. Rise of Japanese Automakers
  9. U.S. Carmakers Retool
  10. Legacy of the U.S. Auto Industry

The automobile was first invented and perfected in Germany and France in the late 1800s, though Americans quickly came to dominate the automotive industry in the first half of the twentieth century. Henry Ford innovated mass-production techniques that became standard, and Ford, General Motors and Chrysler emerged as the “Big Three” auto companies by the 1920s. Manufacturers funneled their resources to the military during World War II, and afterward automobile production in Europe and Japan soared to meet growing demand. Once vital to the expansion of American urban centers, the industry had become a shared global enterprise with the rise of Japan as the leading automaker by 1980.

Although the automobile was to have its greatest social and economic impact in the United States, it was initially perfected in Germany and France toward the end of the nineteenth century by such men as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz, Nicolaus Otto and Emile Levassor.

When Were Cars Invented?

The 1901 Mercedes, designed by Wilhelm Maybach for Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, deserves credit for being the first modern motorcar in all essentials.

Its thirty-five-horsepower engine weighed only fourteen pounds per horsepower, and it achieved a top speed of fifty-three miles per hour. By 1909, with the most integrated automobile factory in Europe, Daimler employed some seventeen hundred workers to produce fewer than a thousand cars per year.

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