Automobiles and Motorcycles in the Twenty-First Century
During the twentieth century, the automobile industry became one of the largest and most important industrial sectors in the world. It provided one out of every six jobs in the United States in 1982, and was the lifeblood of the petroleum industry.
The automobile industry played a critical role in the production of materials for World War I. It produced 75 essential military items, and accounted for about one-fifth of the nation’s war production.
The automobile industry grew rapidly during the first half of the twentieth century. It was the backbone of a new consumer goods-oriented society. The United States had a higher per capita income than Europe, which helped to increase demand for automobiles. Its manufacturing tradition reduced prices for cars, and allowed them to become more affordable for middle-class families.
As the automotive industry became more standardized, it began to divide the market into smaller segments. As a result, manufacturers were able to compete more effectively. The automobile industry’s growth began to slow in the 1920s. However, it grew again after World War II.
The “Big Three” auto companies–Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler–emerged in the 1920s. They dominated the automotive industry. Ford’s Model T runabout sold for less than an average annual wage in the United States, and the company’s use of mass production techniques allowed it to produce 100 cars per day.
In the early 1930s, the automobile industry adopted automatic transmission, which allowed vehicles to be driven without manual gear changes. The automotive industry also began to incorporate more sophisticated emissions-control systems, and improved drivetrains and chassis.