American Automobile Manufacturers: The First Forty Years

American Automobile Manufacturers: The First Forty Years

American Automobile Manufacturers: The First Forty Years

American Automobile Manufacturers: The First Forty Years

Excerpt

The American automobile industry is an obvious and attractive subject for historical study. Given the vital place of the industry in the American economy, the pervasive influence of the motor vehicle in American life, and the intense interest of most Americans in cars--the latest model, the jalopy, the hot-rod, or the antique--inevitably many books have been and will be written on this subject. It may be, however, that some explanation is needed to account for this particular volume, and there is a reason for its existence besides an interest in history combined with a desire to write about automobiles.

The book grew out of a study of the role of engineers--or, more broadly, of men with some type of technological training--in the organization and the management of American business. When I attempted to investigate the extent to which such men had become business leaders and to determine whether their training had discernably influenced decisions on business policy, I found that these questions led into the general area of the relationship between technological change and industrial advance. This relationship in turn has to be considered in the light of other factors such as sources and availability of capital, accessibility of materials and markets, business organization, labor supply, and others. To bring these various elements into some degree of order, it was clearly necessary to focus on some one phase of industrial development.

For this purpose, the automobile industry has provided an admirable case study. It is of recent enough origin so that ample information about it is readily available, and at the same time it has been in existence long enough to justify drawing conclusions about various features of its growth. Its rapid pace of technical change has given technology a vital place in policy considerations. Moreover, since leadership in the automobile industry has been exercised by individuals with an astonishing variety of backgrounds and training, it is possible to compare the technicians with the nontechnicians and arrive at some of the reasons for success or failure.

In the task of writing the book I have received help from a great many . . .

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