Automobiles – The Backbone of Industry

An automobile is a motor vehicle designed to transport passengers on land, and typically has four wheels. It is powered by an internal combustion engine fueled most often by gasoline, a liquid petroleum product. It is one of the most universal of modern inventions and the backbone of a vast industry.

The scientific and technological building blocks of the automobile go back several hundred years, but it was not until the early 20th century that the modern automobile became widely available. Before that, cars had been powered by steam or electric power, and they could not be driven at high speeds or traveled long distances without recharging.

The 1901 Mercedes was the first modern car to achieve this, but it was too expensive for most Americans. In 1910, Henry Ford introduced the Model T, a cheaper and more practical car. He also developed manufacturing methods that allowed him to mass-produce the car, and it quickly became the most popular of automobiles.

The new car was a game changer for the economy, and dozens of spin-off industries blossomed to meet its needs. Steel companies and machine tool makers prospered, as did the manufacturers of specialized components, like tires, batteries, upholstery, and paint. The demand for vulcanized rubber skyrocketed as road construction began to boom. Families rediscovering pristine landscapes drove by places that had been out of reach by other means, and teens gained freedom to roam that spawned relaxed sexual attitudes.

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