During the first half of the twentieth century, the United States quickly dominated the automotive industry. The American manufacturing tradition ensured that automobiles were affordable for middle-class families, and the lack of tariff barriers allowed sales over a wide geographic area. The automotive industry became a key driver of change in twentieth-century America.
In the early 1900s, gasoline cars started to outsell other types of motor vehicles. The demand for automobiles in the United States was driven by economic development and the rise in per capita income. In addition, the lack of skilled labor in the United States encouraged the mechanization of industrial processes.
By the mid-1920s, the automobile industry had become the world’s largest consumer of many industrial products. In the United States, more than one out of every six jobs were in the automobile industry.
In 1913, the United States produced 485,000 motor vehicles. The automobile industry’s growth helped spur the growth of tourism, including tourism-related industries such as hotels, airports, and cruise ships. The automobile also brought better medical care and schools to rural America.
The automobile was the first vehicle to be designed specifically to carry passengers. It incorporated thousands of components, including a body, chassis, engine, and powertrain. Manufacturers developed new designs and improved the safety and emission-control systems of their vehicles.
After World War II, automobile production soared in Europe and Japan. In the United States, the “Big Three” automakers – Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler – emerged.