Automobiles are a major part of the modern economy. They support millions of American jobs and strengthen communities across the country. From cutting-edge facilities that assemble millions of cars each year to the major transportation infrastructure that exports completed vehicles to points around the world, automobiles are one of America’s most significant contributors to economic progress in this century.
The automobile has revolutionized the way we live, work and play by giving us greater freedom to move about and connect with others in ways that were never before possible. It has transformed the way we travel to work, shop and take vacations. It has also helped fuel the growth of the manufacturing and service industries, as well as many other ancillary sectors.
Whether it’s a sleek sports car, an efficient hybrid SUV or a powerful pickup truck, today’s cars offer something for everyone. As the demand for cars continues to increase, manufacturers are focusing on improving safety. Several systems, including blind-spot monitoring and automated emergency braking, are now available. Some of these features are optional, while others may be required by law or in order to meet certain government standards.
In the first decades of the twentieth century, the automobile grew from a luxury to a necessity for middle-class Americans. By allowing people to escape from urban areas and to visit family in the countryside, it gave them a chance to enjoy life’s pleasures while freeing them from the time-consuming constraints of the horse-drawn carriage.
Engineers and designers have made countless improvements to the technology of automobiles, but there are still many challenges. Some problems arise from questionable aesthetic choices that sacrifice function for beauty, while others result from the ever-increasing number of safety and environmental requirements and from the competition of foreign companies with their technologically superior products.
There are now ten basic types of automobiles, which vary by design and price. These include sedans, coupes, convertibles, station wagons, hatchbacks and pickup trucks. More sophisticated models, such as the Mercedes S-class, are a testament to the skill of the designer and the technical advances in the automotive industry. The 1901-1906 Oldsmobile, however, is a reminder that the most advanced car of any era must offer reasonable cost and easy operation.
The era of the annually restyled road cruiser is ending, first because it was insensitive to the needs of most consumers; second because its higher unit profits subsidized the more functional, economical, and fuel-efficient cars of other countries; and finally because its gas-guzzling engines were producing excessive amounts of pollution and draining dwindling world oil supplies.
Today, most people can’t imagine living without a car, which gives them the independence to get where they want when they want. Cars save them time, which is valuable in this busy world. Being able to cross town in a matter of minutes spares them the anxiety and inconvenience of depending on public transportation or having to adjust their schedules to those of friends or relatives.