No technology has had a greater impact on the American life than the automobile. Where we live, how we work, and how we travel, what our landscape looks like, our environment have all been shaped by the automobile. There isn’t a better place that demonstrates the social, geographic, and political changes brought by the industry than Detroit, the motor city. Detroit was situated to be a center of the American automobile industry. All of the material that was needed to build was easily accessible to the city by the great lakes waterways and by rail. The automobile industry helped people with their everyday lives and changed the way people saw the world.
Starting in the late 1700's, European engineers began tinkering with motor powered vehicles. Steam, combustion, and electrical motors had all been attempted by the mid 1800's. By the 1900's, it was uncertain which type of engine would power the automobile. At first, the electric car was the most popular, but at the time a battery did not exist that would allow a car to move with much speed or over a long distance. Even though some of the earlier speed records were set by electric cars, they did not stay in production past the first decade of the 20th century. The steam-driven automobile lasted into 1920's. However, the price on steam powered engines, either to build or maintain was incomparable to the gas powered engines. Not only was the price a problem, but the risk of a boiler explosion also kept the steam engine from becoming popular. The combustion engine continually beat out the competition, and the early American automobile pioneers like Ransom E. Olds and Henry Ford built reliable combustion engines, rejecting the ideas of steam or electrical power from the start.
Automobiles in Early America The automobile changed American life, but the process was gradual. Though historians argue the date and inventor of the first automobile, we can say that Henry Ford’s creation of his Ford Motor Company in 1903 marked perhaps the major milestone of the early twentieth century automobile industry in America and around the world. Five years after the company’s inception, Ford’s legendary Model T of 1908 would revolutionize transportation and the world economy. Before the Model T, automobiles in the US were associated with only the wealthier class.
The automobile industry began with Henry Ford’s production of the Model T in the early 1900’s. With the creation of the assembly line, cars became cheaper and quicker to produce, thus making them affordable for many people. There were originally 500 auto manufacturers. By 1908, there were only 200; and in 1917 only 23 remained. This vast reduction was due to large amounts of consolidation within the industry.
At first, the Model T was hand assembled and took roughly 12.5 hours. When Henry Ford started to build his famous Model T in 1909, his company sold each automobile for $825. Through Ford’s genius perspective, he wanted to reduce the cost per car and the time to build the T. After observing a butcher shop, he engineered a line. This line consisted of a range of workers at each station. At each station, a designated worker puts a piece of the car on; whether from installing the engine or bolting the wheels together or buckling the seats in. These stations add up and produce one final Model T automobile. Thus, the assembly line is able to reduce the overall cost, increase quality, and reduced the time to build the Model T. By the year of 1925, the overall cost was reduced to $260 and took about 93 minutes to construct one. As Henry Ford said, “There is one rule for industrialists and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, pay the highest wages possible.” Ford followed this rule, stuck by this rule, and lived by this rule. Therefore, the assembly line reduced the fuel cost minimization by cutting the time required to build, lowered the overall cost, and manufactured mass quantities of the Model
Purchasing a car is one of the biggest and most important decisions that someone will make during their lifetime. Over the past several years, the prices of a vehicle have increased significantly due to the rise of inflation. Economists compare averages of vehicles to calculate and determine the cost of every vehicle that ends up on the car lot. To determine the cost they interpret all the above information and include everything from the cost of making the vehicle to the time of selling it. In the long run, the demand for vehicles is inelastic because they become a necessity for many people. However, in the short run, the demand is elastic because the purchase of a new vehicle can be put off for a while.
Imagine how life would be if our society did not have cars. Today, our society is depended on cars for our daily routines. From getting our food, clothes, and technology to just going to the store across the street, cars are a very important part of our society. In the 18th century, only the wealthy people had access to automobiles, and they only used cars for fancy transportation and to show off their money. This was because of the extreme prices of cars in the 18th century. With these high prices not many people could afford them, especially not the working class. Henry Ford reevaluated the automobile industry in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. With Ford's enthusiasm to mechanics, he perfected the assembly line, developed cheap cars for the common people, and sparked an era of mass production. Because of this, Ford paid higher and his actions allowed the common people to have access to cars.
The 1920's were a time where North America became modernized. Whether it was the music, the culture or the growth in technology, this time era is known to most people as the point where America advanced itself to become a world renowned country. An advancement that will be focused on is the Ford Model T. During this time owning a car was a symbol of wealth. Henry Ford, the creator of the Model T, made a system that revolutionized the automobile industry as we know it today. Henry Ford made it possible for people with an average income to own a motor vehicle by creating the assembly line and the theory of mass production. "The horse, which had been the chief means of land transportation for 3,500 years, had given way to the automobile, and the country's largest industry had been born." (Gordon)
In this year Henry Ford created the first affordable, combustion engine car called the Model-T. The creation of the Model-T changed the lives of every American. Vehicles were looked at as a way of freedom and excitement. Soon after, every household in America had a car. The demand for vehicles sparked a whole new industry, creating jobs, more revenues and improving the American economy in every way. With so many vehicles on the roads, roads needed to become bigger and better which spawned a nation wide road construction. This also created more jobs and strengthened the economy even further. (Inventions: Car)
Ever since the invention of the automobile, the car has been a large part of American life. Currently there are more than 16 million cars sold that are made in America (Magee, Ferrara, and LaMeau 149). It is something that is used every day in America by millions of people. The automobile opened the door for new opportunities and new experiences. It symbolizes the American ideal of freedom and independence. Americans have embraced the automobile and have implemented it into their lives. Automobiles fueled the American economy and helped establish a nationwide network of roads. Automobiles have had a great influence on American society through their history, the pioneers of the automotive industry, the companies involved in the automotive industry, and the highway system.