Automobiles are self-propelled vehicles that run on roads. They are usually four-wheeled vehicles that can seat at least five passengers. However, there are a variety of other types of vehicles, including motorcycles.
A car can carry a large number of passengers, but it can also be used for cargo. There are three main classes of automobiles. These include sports cars, sedans, and large sport utility vehicles. The latter is generally built to carry six to seven occupants. Cars typically weigh from one to three tons.
An automobile can be powered by internal combustion engines (ICEs) or by hydrocarbon fossil fuels. Alternative power systems include hybrid vehicles and plug-in electric vehicles. Hydrocarbon fossil fuels include diesel and compressed natural gas. In the United States, gasoline-powered automobiles surpassed steam-powered vehicles on the streets by the 1920s.
Before World War II, Japanese automobile manufacturers were limited in production. Some companies, such as Nissan, began as non-automotive businesses. Others, such as Mazda, switched to the production of cars during the 1950s. One of the most successful automobile companies was Benz, which was the largest automotive manufacturer in the world in 1899.
While the automobile was not invented until the late 1800s, its scientific building blocks have been around for several hundred years. Its inventor, Carl Benz, received a patent for the first motorwagen on 29 January 1886. He had also developed the first four-wheeled car, which was powered by a four-stroke engine.
During the early 19th century, steam-powered road vehicles were the norm. However, they were inconvenient to start and had short ranges. To overcome these problems, Benz designed the first internal-combustion engine. Initially he called it a boxermotor, which was later renamed a motorwagen.
After World War I, the auto industry in the United States and Europe grew significantly. It was during this time that Henry Ford introduced manufacturing techniques that revolutionized industrial manufacturing. His Model T, which was produced in 1908, became a popular, affordable vehicle for middle-class families.
Auto companies in Japan partnered with European companies. Toyota, for example, started as a non-automotive company before World War II, but then turned to car manufacturing. Suzuki started producing cars in the 1950s. Several other Japanese companies, such as Nissan, Hyundai, and Mitsubishi, also produced small, three-wheeled vehicles for commercial use.
Today, the automobile is considered a key part of the developed economy. China and Japan are the two largest automotive markets, followed by Germany and the US. In 2020, the industry in China will produce over 20 million vehicles and the automotive industry in Japan will produce seven million.
The automobile was born out of the desire to replace animal-drawn carriages with a self-propelled automobile. Originally, cars were created for light traffic, but by the 1920s, the automobile was taking over the streets of the United States and Europe.
Despite the challenges faced by the automotive industry in the 1920s, it was one of the fastest growing industries in the United States and Europe. Mass production helped the manufacturers become more competitive, and marketing combined with standardized design gave them a recognizable brand name.