Automobiles are highly complex technical systems, comprised of thousands of parts and components, developed to carry passengers, goods and other materials. The modern automobile is the result of technological breakthroughs, including improved air and emission-control systems, new safety legislation and competition among manufacturers in the world.
Most definitions of the term automobile refer to a four-wheeled self-propelled vehicle, usually designed to carry a large number of passengers. In some cases, however, it is possible to use the term “automobile” for vehicles with two or three wheels. For example, the Stout Scarab, a three-wheeled passenger vehicle, was invented by the American inventor William Bushnell Stout. It was also the precursor to minivans.
Automobiles come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and their purpose depends on the manufacturer. They can be used as both family transportation and work vehicles. Their design and construction is dependent on the intended use and the conditions in which they are required to operate.
In the United States, the term automobile is often used interchangeably with the word motorcar. Although these terms are technically distinct, many people mistakenly believe that motorcycles are also automobiles. Generally, a motorcycle is defined as a vehicle with three wheels. However, a motorcar has a steering wheel, and the vehicle may have a side car, a trunk, or a rear seat.
Vehicles for off-road use must be capable of withstanding severe overloads, and they must be able to handle extreme operating conditions. In addition to being durable, these vehicles must have advanced engine performance and passenger comfort features.
Modern automobiles have evolved from the development of technology, such as the internal combustion engine, which was patented in 1885. However, the industry’s history dates back to the late 1800s, when German engineers Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach developed the Daimler Reitwagen. This engine was powerful and predated ICE cars by a year. It had top speeds of under seven miles per hour, and it produced 0.5 horsepower at 600 rpm.
Today, automobiles are the dominant form of transport in the global market. In fact, the world’s total fleet of passenger vehicles is 1.4 billion. Of these, one quarter is in the United States. Among these, approximately 40 million are from foreign manufacturers. A record 1.43 million vehicles were sold in 2012.
The automobile has been the dominant form of transport in the United States and Europe since the early twentieth century. During that time, the American automobile manufacturing tradition helped lower automobile prices and made automobiles more affordable for middle-class families.
After World War II, automobile production in Japan and Europe skyrocketed, and the automobile industry became global. The demand for automobiles in the United States increased as the per capita income increased. Government subsidies and low interest rates contributed to the growth in automobile sales.
Today, Honda’s core business is still in the North American market, but it has a strong presence in Asia and Latin America. It has begun to diversify into other markets, and it has a notable presence in Africa. Besides automobiles, Honda produces scooters and light and medium motorcycles.