Automotive Directory


A Brief History of the Automobile

Although the earliest steam-powered vehicles can be dated to the seventeenth century, the true automobile was not invented until 1806, when a Swiss inventor, Francois Isaac de Rivaz, designed and built the first internal combustion engine. It was used to power a very limited vehicle and the results were not financially rewarding. However, a seed had been planted that would eventually grow to fruition. Nearly one hundred years later the Daimler Motor Company built the first car to bear the Mercedes name. Generating a scant 35 horsepower, the was much more powerful than its predecessors and helped to usher in the era of the car in Europe. Meanwhile, in the United States, automaker Ransom Olds was hard at work, beginning the first production line of cars at his Oldsmobile factory. Then came Henry Ford. Completely revolutionizing the automotive industry, Ford created a system of efficiency that could produce a car from the production line every fifteen minutes while simultaneously reducing the manpower needed down to a paltry one and a half hours per car. This process was only hindered by the painting of the cars. Because the only color that would dry fast enough to meet the production standards was Japan black, all of Ford's early automobiles were only available in this color. In a lucky twist of fate, this revolutionary process coincided exactly with a rise in the economy of the United States, meaning that more people had the means and budget to buy a personal car. On this impetus, the age of American cars was born with the Model T in the year of 1927. The Ford Motor Company expanded internationally and was received with welcome arms from many European and other countries. Many fledgling automakers attempted to jump on the train, but there was not enough demand to support them all. In 1920, over two hundred American companies existed, but by 1930 that number had been reduced to only 43. After the economic downfall of the Great Depression, only 17 managed to survive.

Since those early beginnings, much has changed with both the appearance of automobiles and how they are made. The American automobile market has gone through many changes, from the high-flying chrome and fin designs of the 1950s to performance muscle cars of the 1960s to the need for more economical cars in the 1970s. The trends of car production change frequently and the automaker that stays aware of these trends will enjoy the most success. The automotive industry has always existed in response to current demands and modern concerns are pushing car production into new territories. While it was originally thought to be nothing more than a niche market, more automakers are paying closer attention to cars powered by alternative methods. The high price of gas has seen electric and hybrid cars gain increasing popularity with consumers trying to save costs and reduce the environmental impact. Future automotive technology involves using more environmentally friendly powering methods.

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