Surprising Facts about the History of Automotive Manufacturing for those in Auto Mechanic Training
Automobiles have been around for a while now, dating as far back as 1769—when Nicolas Cugnot began experimenting with steam-powered vehicles. However, it was the Benz Patent-Motorwagen (built in 1885) that changed the auto industry and set the standards for modern automobiles.
With such a long history, the auto industry is full of interesting and surprising facts waiting to be explored. From its humble beginnings to its effect on the World Wars and society, automotive manufacturing is simply rich with historical insights. Here’s a quick overview of some surprising historical facts for students in auto training!
How the Automotive Industry Got Its Start
Before automobile production became a booming industry, it started with the efforts of various small companies. Not many of them continued with the business of car manufacturing, but those that have stayed had a few things in common: they were in the business of making bicycles, building horse-drawn vehicles, or manufacturing machinery (like marine engines, woodworking, and milling tools, or even plumbing fixtures). That was the case for most car manufacturers, but Rolls-Royce and Ford were exceptions—established with the sole purpose of making cars from the very beginning.
Interestingly, engines in the early 1900s were not solely gasoline-powered. That is to say, car manufacturers were experimenting with both steam and electric engines. Although steam-powered automobiles were popular due to the use of flash boilers, they were expensive and difficult to maintain. And despite the appealing qualities of electric automobiles (quiet and easy to handle), their limited battery capacity made gasoline the more practical choice.
How Mass Production Revolutionized the Auto Industry
Undoubtedly, the mass-production of automobiles was a momentous development in auto history, generally attributed to Henry Ford and his Model T. This robust automobile was designed with durability and practically in mind—meant to be economical and easy to maintain. In order to produce this car, Ford deployed the “moving assembly line,” a conveyor system that revolutionized auto careers and sped up the production process. As a result, Ford was able to produce more cars cheaply, selling them at a lower price. It wasn’t until the mid 1920s that Ford’s Model-T began facing serious competition, when other manufacturers began releasing newer models at similar price points.
Around this time, the United States relied on the “Big Three” automotive manufacturers: Ford, General Motors Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. But when The Great Depression started, the automotive industry took a big hit. According to Britannica, motor vehicle production decreased from over five million in 1929 to barely passing one million in 1932.
Notable Mentions and Facts for Those Interested in an Auto Career
Students completing their auto mechanic training might be interested to know that many automotive developments occurred in the 1930s despite the economic challenges of the time. For example, it was in 1932 that Ford introduced the world to V-8 engines. During that time period, advancements in automotive engineering also led to the development of three-point engine suspension, freewheeling, and overdrive mechanics.
During WWII, the auto industry also proved to be a huge force with lots of potential and military value. Car manufacturers were relied on for transport and supply, manufacturing military vehicles and equipment. Staggering numbers show the full extent of the industry’s contribution—a total of around $29 billion worth of military supplies, including motor vehicles, machine guns, and various other equipment. With all of that in mind, we can see just how much the auto industry has changed over the years.
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