History of the Automotive Industry

The automotive industry started in 1893 when Charles and Frank Duryea designed and built the first gasoline-engine-propelled motor vehicle. This invention opened the doors to the automotive industry. During the next 30 years, many people tried to enter the industry, but only a few were successful. The Early YearsDuring the early years, every car was built entirely by hand. This process was not only very slow, but it was very expensive. This is the primary reason so many early innovators went out of business and the other ones were not profitable enough to expand their business.

Henry Ford changed that when he introduced the assembly line. This both increased production speed and decreased cost. This idea of mass production revolutionized the automobile industry. Soon all of the top auto producers would have a assembly line of their own. The lower costs and faster delivery meant a lower price, and the average family could afford and get one. Ford’s Model T soon became the most popular car of the time (Chandler 15).

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The Great DepressionIn October of 1929, America experienced a crash in the stock market that left the thriving country poor and desperate. With the decline in both disposable and discrete income, the demand for new automobiles almost stopped. This huge decrease in demand forced major cutbacks in spending, factories were closed, employees were laid off, and production was almost halted. Many of the smaller plants couldn’t afford to stay in business. The United States time of prosperity had ended.

WWIIDuring the early 1940s, the United States as Hitler rose to power in Germany, and our relationship with Japan grew more and more tense. When Hitler invaded France and started the war, the United States was quick to respond. The United States started producing many different pieces of war equipment.

The auto industry was the first to respond by reopening many of there shut down plants and producing troop transport vehicles, tanks, planes and just about anything else the government wanted. Under the direction of President Roosevelt, Ford Motor Company built a huge assembly plant in Michigan to produce B-29 bombers. The war pulled the United States out the great depression and jump-started its economy (Chandler 25).

The 1950s and 1960sThe war ended in 1945 and brought a fallen country back to its feet. With the economy in great shape and prosperity on the minds of many Americans, the auto industry thrived once again. The big three, as they would soon be known, slowly took form. They included General Motors, Chrysler, and the Ford Motor Company.

In the late 1950s, the United States saw the beginning of foreign cars being imported. This posed very little threat to the market share held by the big three because the quality of the foreign cars was very poor. The 1960s are best remembered as the muscle car era. This was a time of low gas prices and high horsepower. During this time, many new and exciting cars were built such as the Pontiac GTO, Chevrolet Camero, and the Ford Mustang.

The Ford Mustang was, by far the most popular car of the decade (Ford Facts 1). It was during this time that the automotive industry became more sensitive to the demands of the consumer, and product lines changed almost every year. The cars kept getting bigger and faster. This was an era of good times and fast cars.

The 1970s and 1980sIn the early 1970s, the United States felt a huge increase in the price of gas. This marked the end of the muscle car era and the beginning of the compact and sub-compact car era. While the big three were hurrying to release a car with better gas mileage, Honda introduced the first compact car in the United States. In the early 1970s, Ford introduced the Pinto. In hurrying to get a compact car on the market, the quality people had come to expect had been jeopardized.

The Pinto was one of the most unsafe cars ever built, and it took Ford a long time to live that mistake down. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the big three had changed almost all of their cars to a smaller better gas mileage type car. Ford had the Escort, Chrysler the “K cars,” and Chevrolet the Nova. All of these cars also utilized a front wheel drive system. During the 1980s the gas prices stabilized, and the country experienced a period of prosperity. This also changed what people wanted in their automobiles. They wanted more power and innovation. At the end of the decade, new improvements such as antilock brakes, cruise control, and fuel injection had been implemented. 1990 to Present.

The 1990s are an exciting time. In the world today auto-makers are putting more effort in making the consumer happier and more loyal. They have introduced many new innovations such as dual airbags, better rust protection, and greater performance. With the millennium just around the corner, the most vital aspect of any company is its ability to meet the changing demands of the consumer.


The Ford Motor Company is the second largest auto manufacturer in the United States behind General Motors. Ford has quite a few divisions: Ford, Mercury, Lincoln, Jaguar, and its Financial Services. This section will start at the present and look back to the very beginning of the Ford Motor Company.

The BeginningIn 1893 Charles and Frank Duryea designed and built the first gasoline-engine-propelled motor vehicle. This marked the very beginning of the automotive industry. In 1896, Henry Ford built his first motor vehicle: the “Quadricycle.” The Quadricycle was an automobile with a two-cylinder, four-horsepower engine. This invention was what marked the beginning of a legacy.

In 1908, Ford introduced the Model T (Chandler 23). The Model T was the most successful automobile in the country. This success was due to the assembly line that Henry Ford invented. This approach not only lowered the production costs but also increased the amount of cars produced. By 1916 Ford had produced one million cars (Ford Facts 1). When Ford Motors released the Model T they established itself as a leader in the automotive industry. Ford continued to produce the Model T until 1927. Ford produced about16 million Model Ts (Ford Facts 1).

The 1930s and 1940sDuring the great depression, the demand for cars in the United States dropped to an all-time low. Ford was forced to shut down plants and lay off thousands of employees. Ford found hope in the market overseas. Ford opened two new plants, one in Germany, and one in England.

In 1932, Ford built the Model Y, a car designed specifically for Europe (Ford Facts 1)The United States entered WWII in 1941, and was the same year, that Ford started making utility vehicles “jeeps” for the U.S. Military. In 1942 Ford Motor Company halted all production of civilian car output and shifted to total military production (Ford Facts 1). During the war Ford built everything from jeeps to airplanes. When the war ended in 1945 Ford began to produce civilian vehicles again. WWII helped pull America out of the great depression and give Ford a hand in rebuilding its United States plants.

The 1950s and 1960sDuring the 1950s, the public began to want bigger cars. Ford introduced the Thunderbird in 1954 and the Continental Mark II in 1955. These cars helped satisfy the public’s demand for a larger, roomier car. During the 1950s, Ford became a publicly traded company and also introduced the Ford credit program (Ford Facts 1).

By 1960 Ford had sold 50 million cars. The 1960s were the muscle car era. During this era the public’s demand had shifted gears to a faster more sporty style car. Ford introduced the Mustang in 1964 at the New York World’s Fair. The Mustang was one of the best selling cars that Ford had ever built. It was small, sporty, and cost about 30 percent less than people expected to pay. With the Mustang leading the way Ford enjoyed the muscle car era with good growth and market share (McCarthy 20).

The 1970s and 1980sThe 1970 gas crunch took the United States by surprise and the public’s demand changed overnight. The cry for a smaller car with better gas mileage was heard throughout the country. Ford responded with the Pinto, a small economical car with one very large flaw; it was very unsafe in a rear collision accident. This mistake would haunt Ford for many years to come. In the 1980s, Ford introduced both the Escort and the Taurus, two of America’s best selling cars (Ford Facts 1).

The trend in the automotive industry was getting back to power and comfort with the baby boomers getting older. Most of the cars Ford introduced were front-wheel drive, a trend that started in the late 1970s. During the 1980s, the Ford F-Series trucks were the best selling trucks.

The 1990sFord entered the 1990s strong and quick to meet the changing demands of the consumer. Ford continued to remain a leader in the 1990s. The Ford Taurus was named the best selling car many times. The Ford F-Series trucks were also named the best selling vehicle for 10 years. The latest trend in the 1990s is in sport utility vehicles. Ford recognized this market and is the industry leader in SUVs with both the Ford Explorer and the Navigator.


The Ford Mustang is as American as apple pie and baseball. The Mustang is classified as both a passenger car and as an American sports car. This section will discuss the American sports car category and describe the Mustang.

The American Sports Car Product CategoryThe American sports car category was created in the 1960s. The Ford Mustang really kicked off the decade with its introduction in 1964. Others were quick to follow like the Chevrolet Camero and the Pontiac GTO. This class was created to describe cars whose primary purpose wasn’t to haul people or luggage, but to just have fun driving. Today this class still includes the Mustang and Camero, but it also includes other cars such as the Dodge Viper, the Dodge Stealth and the Chevrolet Corvette.

The Ford Mustang Product DescriptionThe Ford Mustang has been around every year since its introduction in 1964. Two years after the car was introduced the millionth Mustang rolled off the assembly line (Ford Facts 1). The Mustang of today is as fun and exciting to drive, as was the Mustang of 1964. The Mustang still remains true to the American classic car with a V8 engine and rear wheel drive.

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History of the Automotive Industry. (2019, Jan 06). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/history-of-the-automotive-industry/