The Automobile Industry
Automobiles are motor vehicles that use four wheels and an internal combustion engine, fueled by gasoline (petrol) or other liquid petroleum products. Automobiles are designed to provide transportation for passengers and cargo. They are manufactured by the automotive industry, one of the world’s largest industries. The automobile has been an important force in societal change, providing more freedom of movement for people, and creating jobs. In the United States, about 90 percent of households own at least one car.
A variety of different types of cars have been made throughout history, with the first true automobiles appearing in the late 1800s. Karl Benz of Germany is often credited with the invention of the modern car, but other engineers and inventors also contributed. Henry Ford was a major figure, as he introduced the assembly line in 1910, making it possible to produce cars cheaply enough that many middle-class Americans could afford them.
Almost all modern cars have the same basic design, including an engine that burns gasoline to propel the vehicle. The fuel is ignited by a spark plug, which creates a high-pressure explosion that drives the pistons in an engine’s cylinders to move the car forward or backward. The resulting motion causes the wheels to turn, and the transmission system transfers the power from the spinning wheels to the wheels that need it.
New technical developments are constantly being employed to improve the design, performance and economy of automobiles. Research and development engineers and scientists focus on improving the body, chassis, drivetrain, engines and other components of the car. The design and construction of the vehicle must be able to withstand extreme loads and operating conditions, while keeping its structure safe for the passengers.
Automobiles require a large supply of raw materials, especially oil and gasoline. To meet demand, ancillary industries grew to support the automotive industry. These included steel manufacturers and machine tool makers, as well as those that supplied the tires, batteries, paint and interior upholstery. Service businesses such as gas stations and convenience stores also grew to serve the automobile industry.
The automobile has been both good and bad for society, with its conveniences outweighing its drawbacks. It enabled individuals to travel farther distances and do more things than were previously possible. But the automobile has also caused air pollution and congestion, as well as traffic accidents. Furthermore, the majority of automobiles run on gasoline, which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas. These effects can be minimized by purchasing fuel-efficient cars and driving them only when necessary. Despite its negative impacts, the automobile is an essential part of modern life in the United States. The layout of many urban areas makes owning a car a necessity, and the majority of American families now have at least one automobile. Online shopping and comparison services make it easier than ever to find the right automobile for a family’s needs.