An automobile is a vehicle that carries passengers, usually with four wheels. Modern automobiles employ thousands of component parts. Their design depends on the intended use. They are used for transportation, including passenger and freight transport, as well as for off-road applications. Automobiles have evolved from early horseless carriages to today’s highly complex and technical systems.
A modern automobile is a technical system that combines the use of gasoline and an internal combustion engine. Typically, the engine is designed for fuel efficiency and high-speed travel. The engine is powered by an emission-control system and a body that protects the driver and passengers. Many manufacturers develop new designs and technologies to improve the performance of their vehicles.
The first automobiles in Europe were three-wheeled vehicles that were driven by an internal combustion engine. This was invented by the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens in the late 1600s. In the United States, the demand for automotive transportation was growing because the country’s economy had improved. As a result, the United States became the world’s leading automobile manufacturing nation during the early twentieth century.
Henry Ford was the first American manufacturer to adopt mass-production techniques and manufacture automobiles in large volumes. His Model T was a runabout that sold for less than the average annual wage in the United States. He introduced a moving assembly line in his factory, allowing him to produce a number of cars at the same time. By 1927, 15 million Model T coupes were sold.
After World War II, the automobile industry skyrocketed in Europe and Japan. As a result, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler emerged as the three largest auto manufacturers in the world. These companies accounted for 80 percent of the global automobile output in 1936.
The United States’ manufacturing tradition made it affordable for middle-class families to own a car. With a higher per capita income, the United States had more demand than Europe for automobiles. The availability of cheap raw materials also encouraged mechanization of industrial processes.
As automobiles were being manufactured, many manufacturers developed new technologies, such as automatic transmissions, hydraulic brakes, and syncromesh transmissions. They also improved on the chassis, emission-control systems, and body designs of their cars.
One of the most important developments of the twentieth century was the development of the battery-powered electric car. Initially, the cars had limited range, but their battery-powered design allowed them to go very long distances. However, they had problems with charging stations. Since the 1970s, the automobile industry has evolved from the use of steam engines to the use of gas and electricity. Today, there are more than 70 million passenger cars in the world.
Although the automobile industry dominated the world’s auto markets in the first half of the twentieth century, it began to lose market share to foreign automakers in the 1930s. When European automakers began using mass-production techniques, the United States remained the world’s leading automobile manufacturer.
During the First World War, the automobile industry played a key role in the production of 75 essential military items. It was estimated that the American automotive industry produced about one-fifth of the nation’s war production.