The first car in history
Market saturation coincided with technological stagnation: In both product and production technology, innovation was becoming incremental rather than dramatic. The basic differences that distinguish post-World War II models from the Model T were in place by the late s—the self-starter, the closed all-steel body, the high-compression engine, hydraulic brakes, syncromesh transmission and low-pressure balloon tires. The remaining innovations—the automatic transmission and drop-frame construction—came in the s. Moreover, with some exceptions, cars were made much the same way in the early s as they had been in the s.
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To meet the challenges of market saturation and technological stagnation, General Motors under the leadership of Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. The goal was to make consumers dissatisfied enough to trade in and presumably up to a more expensive new model long before the useful life of their present cars had ended.
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- Long history of the car.
Thus engineering was subordinated to the dictates of stylists and cost-cutting accountants. General Motors became the archetype of a rational corporation run by a technostructure. As Sloanism replaced Fordism as the predominant market strategy in the industry, Ford lost the sales lead in the lucrative low-priced field to Chevrolet in and By GM claimed 43 percent of the U. During World War II, in addition to turning out several million military vehicles, American automobile manufacturers made some seventy-five essential military items, most of them unrelated to the motor vehicle.
Because the manufacture of vehicles for the civilian market ceased in and tires and gasoline were severely rationed, motor vehicle travel fell dramatically during the war years. Models and options proliferated, and every year cars became longer and heavier, more powerful, more gadget-bedecked, more expensive to purchase and to operate, following the truism that large cars are more profitable to sell than small ones. Engineering in the postwar era was subordinated to the questionable aesthetics of nonfunctional styling at the expense of economy and safety.
And quality deteriorated to the point that by the mids American-made cars were being delivered to retail buyers with an average of twenty-four defects a unit, many of them safety-related. The era of the annually restyled road cruiser ended with the imposition of federal standards of automotive safety , emission of pollutants and , and energy consumption ; with escalating gasoline prices following the oil shocks of and ; and especially with the mounting penetration of both the U. After peaking at a record In response, the American automobile industry in the s underwent a massive organizational restructuring and technological renaissance.
Managerial revolutions and cutbacks in plant capacity and personnel at GM, Ford and Chrysler resulted in leaner, tougher firms with lower break-even points, enabling them to maintain profits with lower volumes in increasingly saturated, competitive markets. Manufacturing quality and programs of employee motivation and involvement were given high priority. Functional aerodynamic design replaced styling in Detroit studios, as the annual cosmetic change was abandoned.
Cars became smaller, more fuel-efficient, less polluting and much safer. Product and production were being increasingly rationalized in a process of integrating computer-aided design, engineering and manufacturing.
The automobile has been a key force for change in twentieth-century America. During the s the industry became the backbone of a new consumer goods-oriented society. By the mids it ranked first in value of product, and in it provided one out of every six jobs in the United States. In the s the automobile became the lifeblood of the petroleum industry, one of the chief customers of the steel industry, and the biggest consumer of many other industrial products. The technologies of these ancillary industries, particularly steel and petroleum, were revolutionized by its demands.
History of cars
The automobile stimulated participation in outdoor recreation and spurred the growth of tourism and tourism-related industries, such as service stations, roadside restaurants and motels. The construction of streets and highways, one of the largest items of government expenditure, peaked when the Interstate Highway Act of inaugurated the largest public works program in history.
The automobile ended rural isolation and brought urban amenities—most important, better medical care and schools—to rural America while paradoxically the farm tractor made the traditional family farm obsolete. The modern city with its surrounding industrial and residential suburbs is a product of the automobile and trucking.
Internal combustion engines
The automobile changed the architecture of the typical American dwelling, altered the conception and composition of the urban neighborhood, and freed homemakers from the narrow confines of the home. No other historical force has so revolutionized the way Americans work, live, and play. In , Americans have become truly auto-dependent. But though automobile ownership is virtually universal, the motor vehicle no longer acts as a progressive force for change. New forces—the electronic media, the laser, the computer, and the robot probably foremost among them—are charting the future.
A period of American history that can appropriately be called the Automobile Age is melding into a new Age of Electronics. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors.
Timeline: History of the Electric Car . NOW on PBS
All rights reserved. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present. In his 84 years, Thomas Edison acquired a record number of 1, patents singly or jointly and was the driving force behind such innovations as the phonograph, the incandescent light bulb and one of the earliest motion picture cameras. Developed in the s and s by Samuel Morse and other inventors, the telegraph revolutionized long-distance communication. It worked by transmitting electrical signals over a wire laid between stations.
In addition to helping invent the telegraph, Samuel Morse The internet got its start in the United States more than 50 years ago as a government weapon in the Cold War.
For years, scientists and In , Connecticut-born gun manufacturer Samuel Colt received a U. Colt founded a company to manufacture his revolving-cylinder pistol; however, sales were slow and the Serbian-American engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla made dozens of breakthroughs in the production, transmission and application of electric power. In August , Carl Benz's wife, Bertha Benz, became the first person to drive a car over a long distance. Without telling her husband she drove one of their Benz Patent-Motorwagens along with her two eldest sons from a town called Mannheim in southern Germany to Pforzheim.
Automobile trips before this were usually short drives, she wanted to prove the automobile they had invented was a useful contraption, that the general public could use. Bertha Benz's road trip was a pioneering drive and a key event in the technical development of the car. Covering km 66 miles each way she did the round trip in two days, solving numerous problems on the way.
When the brakes needed repairing she invented brake lining. She used a hatpin to clean a blocked fuel pipe and insulated a wire with a garter. She located fuel at the city pharmacy in Wiesloch hailed as the first fuel station in the world and on her return home made other suggestions, such as the need of another gear for climbing hills. As automobiles became more popular a need arose to manufacture affordable cars on a large-scale basis.
Henry Ford's Model T car, introduced in , is often regarded as the most famous of all early automobiles. It was the first car to become publically affordable, especially after Ford massively improved the production-line manufacturing system. In , Ford created a production-line system that focused on synchronization, precision, and specialization.
Ford's cars came off the line much faster than previous methods from By assigning each worker a specified area rather than allowing them to roam about, injuries were dramatically reduced. Ford could afford to pay workers more as the number of workers needed decreased. Combined with the high efficiency output a term called "Fordism" was surmised. It lead to most major manufacturing industries adopting the method for various products which contributed to the economic rise of the United States.
In it was estimated that there were over 1 billion vehicles in the world, up from half a billion in