Automobiles and Motorcycles
Automobiles, vehicles that are self-propelled, usually have four wheels and an internal combustion engine. They are generally designed to transport people. They are available in several different versions. Cars can seat anywhere from one to eight people.
The automobile industry is among the largest in the world, generating more than half a trillion dollars in sales every year. Automobile production has increased a lot over the last few decades. In 1996, production jumped to 500,000 vehicles. Since then, it has been growing at a faster rate. This is partly due to pent-up demand after the Asian economic crisis. But the numbers are slowly recovering.
In the late 1800s, German inventors such as Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler, and Emile Levassor perfected the design of a car. They also developed an internal combustion engine. Initially, the engines were steam-powered and lacked high speed capabilities. Steam engines were inconvenient to start, and they only had a limited range. Eventually, gasoline-powered automobiles won the race. By 1920, the gasoline-powered automobile had overtaken the streets of Europe.
After World War II, automobile production soared in Europe. New regulations on emissions, hydrocarbons, and nitric oxides increased the pressure to produce more fuel-efficient cars. A number of new auto companies emerged, including Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. These three companies became the “Big Three” in the auto industry.
When the Asian economic crisis hit, vehicle sales declined. But the market recovered, and vehicle ownership increased by five to 10 percent annually. And despite a slowdown, the auto industry remains a large and vital business. Automakers also began to introduce industrial materials and body styles inspired by aircraft. It is estimated that automobiles now account for 4.8 trillion kilometers (about 3 trillion miles) of driving each year.
The automobile was born out of the 19th century’s dream of a self-propelled carriage. Originally invented in Germany, it was perfected in France, and later in the United States. Some people believe that motorcycles are automobiles. However, this definition is a matter of debate.
Motorcycles have been defined differently by various courts. The NHTSA defines a motorcycle as a motor vehicle with motive power. It can be used interchangeably with the term “automobile,” but it is always better to use the correct term.
The first commercially-produced motorcycle in the US was built by Charles Metz in 1898. It was sold under the name of the Excelsior Motor Company in Coventry, England. His model was called the Stout Scarab. Featuring a streamlined beetle-like shape and a rear engine, it was ideal for passenger transportation.
Before the automobile revolution, bicycle mechanics J. Frank and Charles Duryea won the first race in the United States in 1895. Soon after, they began selling their American-made gasoline car.
As the twentieth century went by, automobiles began to overtake the streets of Europe and the United States. By the end of the decade, there were more than 915,000 gasoline-powered vehicles in the United States. Sales climbed to an all-time record in 2012.
After World War II, American auto manufacturers began using assembly lines in their factories. These techniques changed the industrial manufacturing industry, and by the middle of the twentieth century, American automobiles had become the most popular in the world.