*** American automotive industry early history

American Automotive Sector: Early History

American automobile industry
Figure 1.--Patent attorney, George B. Selden, was awarded a patent for an automoble (1895). American automobile companies actually began paying him royalties, setting up an extended legal battle with none other than Henry Ford. Here we see Selden in New York City during 1905. Notice that the steering wheel is set in the middle of the front seat.

The automobile was created by French and German industrial pioneers (late-19th century). In America a patent attorney, George B. Selden, was awarded a patent for an automoble (1895). American automobile companies actually began paying him royalties, setting up an extended legal battle with none other than Henry Ford. American and European companies at the turn-of-the 20th century were making small numbers of luxury automobiles (early-1900s). They were done in very small numbers and very expensive. There was a large number of small manufacturers. Working-class Americans walked some might have bicycles. Astonishingly, in the space of 4 years, three American mechanics with no scientific background changed the world -- changed that would dominate the 20th century. The Write brothers would build the first heavier-than-air flying machine (1903). Than Henry Ford revolutionized the industry with the Model-T Tin Lizzy. Ford did not invent the basic technology for the automobile and neither did Selden. That technology already existed at the time Ford began working on the Model-T. What Ford did was to make a play-thing for the well-to-do, a utilitarian vehicle for the farmer and urban worker. Ford adapted assembly line for automobile manufacturing as well as designing a very basic design. He took a further unprecedented step, paying his workers $5 a day, more than twice what most industrial workers were earning. This was enough to purchase one of the cars. Notably, $2 a day was more than most European workers were earning. Thus rather producing small numbers of luxury cars, Ford took the vital step of applying assembly line manufacturing techniques to motor vehicle construction. The result was the Model-T--a vehicle for the average man. Ford worked hard at making it inexpensive and American workers were paid enough to afford one. The result was a huge new industry for America's already expanding industry. Ford would dominate the automotive industry for more than a decade, but he was not the only player. William C. Durant founded General Motors (1908). GM was initially intended as a holding company for the Buick Car Company. Durant, however, saw opportunities. He began buying some of the biggest names in the automotive industry, companies that had launched the industry. They had all been eclipsed by Ford, including Cadillac, Oakland (Pontiac), Oldsmobile, and companies producing trucks--the future of GMC Truck. GM would become a real competitor in the 1920s. At the time, the United States was the largest industrial economy in the world. The automobile industry enabled it to grow far beyond the capacity of the European countries. The resulting economic boom resulting from the automobile industry created an industrial juggernaut far beyond the potential of the European powers. Ford had rural America in mind, seeing that it would prove useful to them if he could create a rugged vehicle at an affordable price. It would solve the problem of dustiness which isolated rural America. Ford also saw a market with industrial workers. Ford's simple design and assembly line techniques created an inexpensive vehicle for farmers and workers. As a result, Ford managed the impossible. The first Model-T touring car cost $950. Ford managed to get that down to $360 by 1916. Sales soared as the lower price made the Model T affordable to more and more Americans. Sales were an impressive 12,292 (1909). That was impressive in 1909 when other manufacturers were still selling very small numbers. Ford increased sales to an incredible 0.5 million (1916). This made Ford the largest car manufacturer in America which also meant the World. Ford became the largest car manufactured in America.


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Created: 11:04 PM 7/14/2023
Last updated:11:06 PM 7/14/2023