Automobiles are self-propelled motor vehicles that usually have four wheels and an internal combustion engine that is fueled most often by gasoline. They are one of the most universal of modern technologies.
They are a vital part of the economy, both in terms of industrial production and in providing transportation for a vast number of people. They also play a major role in the social life of many countries around the world.
In the United States, the automobile industry has long been a national obsession, spawning a large and diverse group of companies that are a vital part of the nation’s economy. As the demand for automobiles grew in the late 1800s, American manufacturers began to take advantage of mass-production techniques that made automobile manufacturing efficient and inexpensive.
Those techniques were a boon to the automotive industry, making it possible for Americans to compete with Europeans and Japanese manufacturers on a global scale in the first half of the twentieth century. However, the Great Depression and World War II shook the industry to its core, and only the large “Big Three” auto makers remained in business after the 1930s.
The First Cars
The first cars were horseless buggy-styled vehicles that were adapted to hold an internal-combustion engine. This type of vehicle was produced by several American firms in the 1890s, including Charles Duryea and J. Frank Duryea, Elwood Haynes, Ransom E. Olds, and Alexander Winton.
By 1895, the first successful American gasoline automobiles had been manufactured and were sold. This was followed by the first mass-produced American car, the Model T, which was introduced by Henry Ford in 1908.
It took the German engineer Karl Benz and the French engineer Gottlieb Daimler to develop and perfect the internal-combustion engine for use in vehicles that would become the basis of the modern automobile. Both men designed their cars for high speed and efficiency, using a vertical cylinder with a carburetor to burn gasoline.
Their success in the automotive industry laid the foundation for modern cars that are still in use today. Whether used for local or long-distance travel, cars provide the freedom of movement that is critical to a modern lifestyle.
They offer a wide range of features and capabilities that are essential to their performance. These include engines that are powerful enough to drive at highway speeds while delivering good fuel economy and comfortable seating for the driver, as well as sophisticated suspension systems that make the vehicle safe, quiet, and comfortable.
Various types of automobiles are available, depending on the need and budget of the owner. Some are intended solely for local driving and therefore have limited power and comfort, while others are sports vehicles that have greater steering and handling capability but require larger and more expensive engines.
Some are hybrids, which combine an internal-combustion engine with an electric motor to boost their fuel economy and recharging capacity when needed. These vehicles are becoming more popular, especially in the 21st cent.