The Automobile Revolution: The Impact of an Industry

The Automobile Revolution: The Impact of an Industry

The Automobile Revolution: The Impact of an Industry

The Automobile Revolution: The Impact of an Industry

Excerpt

James M. Laux

Revolution? Did the invention of the automobile and its ultimate adoption almost everywhere on the planet produce a truly revolutionary impact? This is for the reader to judge, but the authors believe that it has, and this book offers considerable supporting evidence. The revolutionary effect of developments in technology is nothing new. Consider, for example, gunpowder, the clock, the printing press, and the steam engine. To these famous innovations, the automobile must be added. The French automotive engineer Maurice Norroy describes the revolution it has wrought in a few words: "The history of the automobile more than anything else is the history of a revolution. In only a few years industrial methods were transformed, and along with them the means of communication, and more, the nature of rural and urban life, the way goods are distributed, and the entire economic system."

The genesis of this revolution can be placed in the Gay Nineties, when German and French engineers adapted the internal-combustion engine to road transport. In a few years, they managed to design cars that would run reliably and found a market for them. Then, the Americans, after first concentrating on electric-and steam-powered vehicles, began to produce internal-combustion models based on European designs. Manufacturers who made relatively small and cheap types discovered what appeared to be an unlimited market. To supply it, they introduced new production methods: standardization, intensive mechanization, and the assembly line. Artisanal production gave way to mass production. As Georges Friedmann explained it . . .

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