Automobiles, also known as motor cars, are a type of self-propelled vehicle that is designed to carry passengers. They typically have four wheels and are usually powered by an internal combustion engine. Modern vehicles are very complicated technical systems with thousands of component parts. Their designs and construction have evolved from various technologies, such as safety legislation, new technologies, and competition between automobile manufacturers throughout the world.
Automobiles began to take shape in the late 1800s. The invention of an internal combustion engine in 1885 led to the development of a self-propelled vehicle. It took several years for the engine to become widespread in the United States. However, its benefits were clear: it was affordable, easy to maintain, and capable of traveling long distances.
After World War II, Japanese automobile manufacturing soared. In the United States, the industry had its own growth spurt, as well. Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler emerged as the three leading automobile companies by the 1920s. By that time, the automobile industry had become the backbone of a consumer goods-oriented society.
Mass production techniques developed by Henry Ford helped make his Model T runabout one of the most popular automobiles of all time. He made a commitment to building large quantities of the car, and he set up a new plant in Highland Park, Michigan, in 1910. His innovations in mass production techniques eventually made the Ford Motor Company the most successful automobile manufacturer in the world.
After the war, Detroit’s use of mass production methods led to the creation of a new era of affordable gas-guzzling automobiles. As a result, the company’s unit profits increased. But this was at the expense of the environment and world oil reserves.
A large number of defects accompanied the postwar models, as the quality of the cars deteriorated to 24 defects per unit by the mid-1960s. These were primarily safety-related issues.
While the first motor cars were simple, bicycle-like contraptions, modern automobiles are complex technical systems. Many different components contribute to their stability and performance. The weight distribution of a vehicle depends on the size of its engine and the way it is positioned.
In addition, the automobile’s popularity encouraged the growth of industries that related to the transportation of people and goods. Among them were the petroleum and steel industries. An increase in economic activity and the availability of cheap raw materials motivated the mechanization of industrial processes in the United States.
A chronic shortage of skilled labor also influenced the adoption of motor vehicles in the United States. Consequently, the automotive industry became the chief customer of the steel and petroleum industries. Until the 1970s, the automotive industry provided one out of six jobs in the United States.
In the 1990s, the transportation sector provided employment to more than one in eight workers in the U.S., a far greater percentage than in Europe. Meanwhile, the transportation industry also expanded to include trucking and urban services.