How did the spread of automobile transform the United States

The automotive industry has seen the revolution of the American cultural, infrastructural, social and economic aspect especially in the twentieth century. This is attributed to the widespread ownership of vehicles in the American community especially with launching of affordable Model T by Henry ford and the mass production through assembly lines. The revolution also affected other sectors that service the industry and changes of consumerism due to enhanced purchasing power. The changes by the spread of the automobiles are independently studied next. Background

It all started in Europe with the invention of motor powered vehicles in the late eighteenth century. As a matter of fact by the middle of 19th century the engineers were still finding a solution on powering the automobile. Electric cars were produced in the twentieth century but were out of production by the first decade. Next came steam powered automobile but was similarly phased out due to the high cost of engine production and the problem of boiler explosion. The combustion engine later became popular which saw icons like Ransom and Henry Ford come up with gas powered engine which was more reliable than the steam and electric powered engines.

Commercial automotive production on a large scale started in France in late nineteenth century. However, in the United States it started in the beginning of twentieth century.  The first vehicle to be manufactured on a mass scale was the three horse power curved Oldsmobile in 1901 (Batchelor 45). Other manufacturers then entered into the automotive business which saw companies such as Ford Motor Company come into existence in 1903 with popular model T. The model was produced by the company for an average American and by 1920 the company had sold more than a million automobiles.

The revolution of the automobile industry in the United States can be pin pointed to Henry Ford and the assembly line which made mass production of cars at an affordable price for Americans possible. Indeed, the cars changed the lifestyle of Americans and economic benefits were astounding turning some cities like Michigan and Detroit into auto capitals. This followed with other companies like Chevrolet and Chrysler settings plants into these locations. Mobility

The entry into the automotive industry by players like Henry Ford saw the spread of the automobile among the American population unlike before when the toys were preserve of the rich. With the company producing affordable cars the automobiles became available for the middle class as well. The effect this had on the automobile industry in America is that the wages and the units of the automobiles tremendously increased. Convenience of travel improved and people were no longer required to stay near railway lines and people spread all over the urban areas.

During the era of horse driven mode of transportation ten to fifteen miles was the standard distance that could be traveled. However, with this transformation it brought along a change in living and social life of the Americans. With the distance that could be traveled immensely becoming expanded, cities and infrastructure started being extended and built on a big scale. It goes without saying that with the energized automotive industry the service industry would also grow which saw proliferation of auto-related shops, gas stations, shops on highways and fast food establishments come up. Infrastructure

About a century ago the infrastructure at the moment mainly consisted of the steam ships, canals and rail roads. However it is the invention of the ‘two wheeler’ that sparked the need to have a road network which saw the development of roads to serve the wagons, coaches and bicycles being carried out. However it is the revolution of the automobile industry that occurred with the introduction of the t-mobile in early 20th century that put pressure on the government to become more involved in the infrastructure development. As a matter of fact in 1916, it is under the Federal Aid Road Act that the state highway agencies were to be funded on a continuous program to help in improvement of the roads (Richard Para6). In addition, the Federal highway act of 1921 started providing funds to the state highway agencies in aiding them to construct the two lane interstate highways (Richard para8). The fruits of the federal government in road improvement and construction failed with the destruction of the roads after world war two. In 1944 legislation was passed to create a national system of interstate highways with an anticipation of a vibrant automobile industry. It is worth noting that between 1921 and 1941 the funding from the federal government saw the tripling of the amount of surfaced roads with an estimated forty billion dollars being spent on roads (Rob Para 8). According to Rob (para5) with the increase in automobiles which had been designed for horses the various authorities and the government launched ambitious road construction campaigns. The expansion of cities also intensified and saw the emergence of suburbs. At the time the workers usually lived near the factories or in areas where transportation was accessible by street car or rail. Economic

With the revolution of automobile came the employment opportunities. For instance, when the Ford Company developed the assembly line workers were employed on an average pay of five dollars on a forty hour per week basis. Indeed, according to ford when pricing the Model T he made sure it would be affordable to the workers as well. The impact of the automobile brought along unions to fight for the workers rights which as a result created a solid middle class. It was in 1930s that legislation gave the unions the legality and the bargaining power. The unions negotiated wages and other benefits employed in the automobile plants. It can be noted that the 40 hour work week and the minimum wage payable was set at the time. It is also notable that after the great depression there was a mass exodus to search for jobs from areas like California and a huge suburban sprawl.

With the spread of automobile and an alternative mode of transportation brought along some changes. Buying on mode of installments was encouraged by automakers in order to beat off competition by the established and cheap brands like Model T in 1916. In addition, the manufacturers at the time also stimulated buying of the automobiles on credit. Motels in particular cropped up from 1925 and were to be found on busy interchanges, suburbs and airports and wee designed to offer overnight lodging to the countryside travelers (Longstreet 121). The drive in restaurants also started mushrooming with Pig Stand in Dallas being an example of such a restaurant where travelers could be served inside the comfort of their automobiles. It is worth noting that the idea of the assembly that was developed by Ford was replicated in food industry by Ray Kroc which saw the opening up of MacDonald fast food in 1948 and chain restaurants as well.

It is common knowledge that the automotive industry is a good consumer of steel and other metals. Indeed with an expanded automotive industry has lead to a high demand for steel and rubber. As a matter of fact according to Setright (36) 20% of the steel and 60% of the rubber produced in America goes to the automotive industry. In addition with the growth of the automotive industry this has stimulated the technological advancement, petroleum refining and other processes related to the sector.

 

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