Automobiles are vehicles which operate on an internal combustion engine, usually running on gasoline. The vehicle also has four wheels and a steering wheel that is controlled by the driver. A car typically seats a number of passengers.
It was first developed in the late nineteenth century in Europe. The first American-made car was sold in 1896. By the 1920s, the gasoline-powered automobile had overtaken the streets of the United States and Europe.
In the 1930s, European automakers began adopting mass production techniques. These techniques made automobiles more affordable to middle-class families. The demand for new cars exceeded the supply of new cars.
Ford, General Motors and Chrysler emerged as the “Big Three” automakers by the late 1920s. These companies accounted for eighty percent of industry output.
Automotive manufacturing was a major contributor to the development of the American economy. Low interest rates, cheap raw materials, and a chronic shortage of skilled labor encouraged the mechanization of industrial processes in the United States.
When the Great Depression hit in 1929, many automakers were forced out of business. Fortunately, a few independent manufacturers survived. Still, the number of active manufacturers dropped from 253 in 1908 to 44 by 1929.
After World War II, Japanese and European auto manufacturers surged in production. Autos became a global industry by the 1980s. During that time, the average age of a vehicle sold in the United States was thirty years.
While Europe remained a strong automobile market, the United States was still the dominant player in the field. The country had a more equitable income distribution and greater need for automotive transportation.