Automobiles are wheeled vehicles with their own motor. These vehicles run primarily on roads, seat one to eight people and are designed to transport humans rather than goods.
Cars and trucks are the most common type of automobiles, accounting for almost all passenger transportation in the world. They can be powered by a variety of sources, including gasoline, diesel or electric power.
The invention of the internal combustion engine made it possible for engineers to create self-propelled vehicles that could be driven on public roads and highways. The first such vehicle was invented by Carl Benz in Germany.
In the United States, Henry Ford and William Durant established the first modern auto companies in the early twentieth century. They redesigned and improved the assembly line, allowing mass production of cars for the first time.
They also began to produce cars with greater speed and safety than their earlier models. They were able to manufacture hundreds of cars each day, selling them to the general public for a price well below what their competition charged.
By the end of World War II, the “Big Three” auto manufacturers dominated the domestic market. But the industry was becoming increasingly unprofitable as new technology and market trends eroded the appeal of older styles.
The emergence of small, fuel-efficient, well-designed and well-built cars in Japan, coupled with federal standards on automotive safety and emission, has helped reverse the trend. Today, more than 1.4 billion cars are in operation worldwide, and the market for automobiles is growing significantly.