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The Automobiles Effects on the Us

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The automobile has had a profound impact on the United States. It has brought us

superhighways, paved bridges, motels, vacations, suburbia, and the economic growth

which accompanied them. Today, the automotive industry and nearly one million related

industries employ about twenty percent of all American workers. The US produces more

automobiles than every other nation combined. This product has become a symbol of the

American way of life. The US is sometimes referred to as "a nation on wheels."

Considering these facts, one must wonder what the United States was like before the

revolutionary innovation of the automobile.

The first automobile was invented by a French artillery officer, Nicholas Joseph

Cugnot. His self-propelled vehicle was powered by steam. Other models of

steam-powered automobiles were created by different innovators, but these models were

eventually made obsolete by the internal-combustion powered car invented by Jean Joseph

Etienne Lenior. This technology reached the United States when Charles and Frank

Duryea made the first successful American gasoline automobile. Ransom Eli Olds had the

earliest assembly line for automobiles and began mass production. Later, Henry Ford's

Model T dominated the car industry and remained the most popular automobile for nearly

twenty years.

In the early days of the automobile, there was not a real automotive industry. Only

a few hundred cars were made in the early years of automobile manufacturing. They were

very seldom seen and only could be afforded by the wealthy. The car was such an

unfamiliar spectacle, it was sometimes featured in circuses. Eventually, the car began to

increase in popularity.

During the 1920s, the US economy was on the rise and one of the main reasons

was the automobile. Assembly lines were becoming more efficient, thus, admitting cars to

be made more cheaply and allowing prices of cars to drop. From 1909 to 1925, the price

of a Ford Model T dropped from $950 to $290. This allowed more people to be able to

afford them. Millions were sold. The automobile, once a rare luxury, was becoming a

part of American life. It had a ripple effect on US industries. With the increase in

automobiles, came an increase in related products. Large quantities of glass, rubber and

steel were needed to produce the multitude of automobiles in demand by the public, and

petroleum was needed to fuel them. Industries which made these products flourished.

Also, the construction industry experienced a boom and new techniques of construction

were invented. Roads and highways were built to accommodate the increasing traffic.

Suburbs grew rapidly. Gas stations, motels, restaurants and other places were built to

provide for those traveling by automobile.1

Big business also greatly benefited from the automobile's ability to make some

business techniques simpler. Corporations could now transport products further and

faster for less money than before. This, in turn, allowed for wider market areas in

commerce, selling more products to more people and generating a greater revenue.

Globalization of products (assembling products from parts made worldwide) was also

made easier.

The automobile helped the United States get out of The Great Depression and win

the war. Two months after the US entered World War II, the last passenger car was

made. The automobile industry was converted to wartime manufacture. The Office of

Production Management (OPM) was now given the power to enforce its decisions on the

war production of vehicles. The OPM, along with the War Production Board and The

Automotive Council for War Production, supervised the conversion of peacetime

automotive production to that of wartime. Chrysler Corporation mass-produced tanks.

Many car companies made over two and a half million trucks for the military. General

Motors produced nearly twelve billion dollars worth of military equipment, most of which

the company had never made before (shells, bombs, fuses, navigation equipment, artillery,

machine guns and antiaircraft weaponry). They also produced engines and vehicles. The

automobile industry made over 450,000 aircraft engines and almost 170,000 marine

engines. The Ford Motor Company mass-produced bomber aircraft. Automakers more

than doubled their productive capacity during the war.2 This not only helped to win

World War II but pumped much needed capital into the US economy to bring it out of

The Great Depression.

Towards the end of the war, an Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion was

established to reconvert the automotive industry to peacetime production.3 The car

business did not return to its full peacetime capacity until



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