Automobiles (or cars) are four-wheeled, passenger vehicles that run primarily on roads and have seating for one to six people. They typically have an internal combustion engine, with a central vertical shaft that delivers power to the wheels. The automotive industry provides jobs to more than 9.6 million Americans and is a critical part of the U.S. economy. From cutting-edge facilities that assemble millions of automobiles to major transportation infrastructure that exports completed vehicles worldwide, the American automotive industry is a powerful force that drives America forward.
Perhaps no invention has impacted American everyday life more than the automobile. It has given people greater personal freedom and access to jobs, places to live, services, leisure activities, and more. It has spawned new industries and created new jobs. It has lowered living costs and increased purchasing power, allowing people to spend money on things such as entertainment, food, clothing, and housing.
The automobile was first perfected in Germany and France toward the end of the nineteenth century by men such as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz, and Nikolaus Otto. But after America entered World War I, manufacturers funneled their resources to the military, and thirty American companies started making 2,500 gasoline automobiles in 1899. The first American manufacturer to produce a large number of motor vehicles was the bicycle mechanics J. Frank and Charles Duryea of Springfield, Massachusetts.
The auto industry became dominated by Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. During the 1930s, as the automobile industry achieved market saturation and technological stagnation, questions surfaced about its safety, nonfunctional styling, and fuel efficiency. These led to the development of government regulations and the establishment of driving laws. Concerns about pollution and the draining of oil reserves also arose. These concerns opened the automotive industry to manufacturers from countries like Germany and Japan, who produced compact, functionally designed cars that were affordable to many Americans.