The 1901 Mercedes created by Wilhelm Maybach for Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft is worthy of credit for being the first modern automobile in every aspect.
Its thirty-five-horsepower engine weighed only fourteen pounds per horsepower, and it achieved a top speed of fifty-three miles per hour. In 1909, the largest automobile manufacturing plant across Europe, Daimler employed some 17000 workers to build less than one thousand vehicles each year.
Nothing demonstrates the quality of European design more clearly than the striking contrast between this initial Mercedes version and the Ransom E. Olds‘ 1901-1906 three-horsepower one-cylinder tiller-driven curving-dash Oldsmobile that was an electric horse buggy. However, the Olds was sold for just $650, making it at the price of middle-class Americans, and 1904’s Olds production of 5,508 units far exceeded the previous record of car production.
The main challenge of automobile technology in the early decade of the 20th century was reconciling the sophisticated designs of the 1901 Mercedes with the modest cost and low operating costs that came with the Olds. It would be a major American accomplishment.
Henry Ford and William Durant
The bicycle mechanics J. Frank and Charles Duryea from Springfield, Massachusetts, were the architects of one of the most successful American gasoline cars in 1893. They were the winner of the first American car race in 1895. They then were able to create the first commercial sale of a gasoline vehicle made in America the following year.
Thirty American manufacturing companies produced 2,500 motor vehicles by 1899. Around 485 companies joined the market within the next decade. In 1908, Henry Ford introduced the Model T, and William Durant founded General Motors.
The new companies operated in a unique market for a high-priced consumer product. With its enormous landmass and backcountry of scattered and inaccessible settlements and settlements, it was clear that the United States had a far more pressing need for automobile transportation than other countries in Europe. The demand for automobiles was bolstered as well by a more affluent per capita and more equitable distribution of income than European nations.
Due to the American manufacturing history, It was also expected that automobiles would be manufactured in greater quantities with lower costs than in Europe. The lack of barriers to trade between states facilitated sales across the entire globe. The availability of cheap raw materials and the constant shortage of skilled laborers initially encouraged the automation of manufacturing techniques in the United States.
This led to the standardization of goods, which led to the mass manufacturing of commodities like firearms and bicycles, sewing machines, and many more. In 1913, it was estimated that the United States produced some 485,000 of the global total of 606,124 motor vehicles.
Ford Motor Company Ford Motor Company greatly outpaced its rivals in balancing state-of-the-art design and a reasonable cost. Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal classified the four-cylinder, fifteen-horsepower $600 Ford Model N (1906-1907) as “the very first instance of a low-cost motorcar driven by a gas engine having cylinders enough to give the shaft a turning impulse in each shaft turn which is well built and offered in large numbers.” Inundated by the demand, Ford installed improved production equipment, and by 1906, could make deliveries of one hundred cars per day.
Invigorated by the popularity of Model N, Henry Ford wanted to create an even more efficient “car for the great multitude.” The Model T was a four-cylinder vehicle with a horsepower of twenty horses. Model T, first offered in the fall of 1908, priced at $825. The two-speed planetary transmission made it simple to drive, while features like the detachable cylinder head made it simple to fix. The high-rise chassis was created to smooth out bumps on roads that were rural. Vanadium steel created the Model T Model T, a lighter and stronger car. The new techniques of casting components (especially block casting for the engine) kept the price lower.
Affirmed to the production of large quantities of the Model T, Ford innovated modern methods of mass production in his new Highland Park, Michigan manufacturing plant that was inaugurated in the year 1910 (although Ford did not launch the assembly line that moved until 1913 and 1914). It was reported that the Model T runabout sold for $575 in 1912, a fraction less than the median annual wage in the United States.
At the time that the Model T was withdrawn from production in 1927, the price was reduced to $290 for the coupe. Fifteen million units were sold, and mass-personal “automobility” had become a possibility.
Automotive Industry Growing Pains
Other American automobile makers soon used Ford’s mass-production techniques. (European automakers didn’t begin using these methods in the late 1930s.) The greater capital investment and the larger number of sales that this required ended the time of the ease of access and freewheeling rivalry for several small-scale producers within the American industry.
The number of active auto producers fell by 253 from 1908 down to just 44 in 1929, with approximately 80 percent of their production accounted for by Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, which was formed out of Maxwell at the time of 1925. Walter P. Chrysler.
A majority of the remaining independents were eliminated during the Great Depression, with Nash, Hudson, Studebaker, and Packard remaining, only to crumble after the post-World War II period.
Model T Model T was intended to be “a farmer’s car” that fulfilled the requirements of farmers across the country. Its popularity would surely decrease as the country became more developed and the rural regions emerged from the mud following the passing in 1916 of the Federal Aid Road Act and the 1921 Federal Highway Act.
Additionally, the Model T remained basically unchanged long after it was deemed technologically outdated. Model T owners began to upgrade to larger, more powerful, smoother, quicker, and more fashionable automobiles. The need for transportation that the Model T had met tended to be completed by the piles of old cars piling up on dealers and lots when the market became crowded.
Car Sales Stall
In 1927, the demand for replacements for new cars was far exceeding demand from first-time buyers and buyers of multiple vehicles. Based on the prevailing economic conditions of the time, the automakers couldn’t be confident of a growing market. Installment sales were initiated by manufacturers of affordable cars in 1916 to compete with models like the Model T, and by 1925, about three-quarters of new automobiles were purchased “on time” through credit.
While a few costly items, like pianos or sewing machines, were offered for sale in the early 1920s, it was the installment sales of automobiles in the 1920s that led to the buying of costly consumer items on credit as a habit of the middle class and the mainstay for the American economy.
GM Introduces ‘Planned Obsolescence’
The soaring market was accompanied by technological stagnation. In both production and product technology, technological advancement was becoming more gradual rather than radical. The main differences that distinguished the post-World Wars II models from Model T were in place in the late 1920s: the self-starter, the all-steel closed body, and the high-compression engine mechanical brakes with hydraulic brakes as well as synchromesh transmissions and balloon tires with low-pressure.
The last innovations — the automatic transmission and drop frame construction — came around the time of the 1930s. In addition, with a few exceptions, automobiles were constructed similar to the early 1950s in the same way as they were earlier in the 1920s.
To tackle the problems of technology stagnation and market saturation, General Motors, under the direction of Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., during the 1930s and 1920s, innovated designed obsolescence of products and placed a renewed importance on design, which is evident in the annual, largely cosmetic model overhaul, which was planned to be a triennial major refresh to be in line with the financial aspects of time and with periodic minor facelifts that took place in between.
The aim was to get consumers unhappy enough to sell their cars and purchase an expensive new model long before the useful lifespan of their existing vehicles expired. Sloan’s ethos is that “the primary object of the corporation … was to make money, not just to make motorcars.” Sloan believed it was only necessary for GM’s vehicles to be “equal in design to the best of our competitors … it was not necessary to lead in design or to run the risk of untried experiments.”