The USA’s love affair with the automobile started with the Duryea brothers – Charles and Frank – who created their first petrol-powered car in 1893. Like many auto pioneers across the world, they were originally bicycle mechanics. The brothers built their first car in a workshop located in a building in downtown Springfield, MA. Their new creation was rolled onto the city streets for testing in September 1893. It sported a one-cylinder, gasoline engine and a three-speed transmission mounted on a used horse carriage. It could achieve a top speed of 7.5 mph.

In 1896, Henry Ford produced his first automobile – the Quadricycle. In 1913 Ford introduced the integrated moving assembly line which reduced the Model T’s chassis assembly time from 12.5 to 1.5 hours. The approach was soon adopted around the world and still has implications for today’s manufacturing processes.

In 1899, thirty American manufacturers produced 2,500 motor vehicles, and some 485 companies entered the business in the next decade. In 1908 Henry Ford introduced the Model T and William Durant founded General Motors. Ford, General Motors and Chrysler emerged as the “Big Three” auto companies by the 1920s.

An excerpt from the 1926 Department of Commerce Statistical Abstract of the United States clearly shows the growth of both the American automotive industry and the size of the US carpark – 8,000 cars in 1900, 400,000 in 1910, 9,000,000 in 1920 and 22,000,000 in 1926. Also, the wholesale value of passenger vehicles is also listed in their tables. The average wholesale cost of a car in 1909 was $1252. By 1916, the average wholesale price was $604.

After peaking at a record 12.87 million units in 1978, sales of American-made cars fell to 6.95 million in 1982, as imports increased their share of the U.S. market from 17.7 percent to 27.9 percent. In 1980 Japan became the world’s leading auto producer, a position it continues to hold. In 1980, 87.2 percent of American households owned one or more motor vehicles, 51.5 percent owned more than one, and fully 95 percent of domestic car sales were for replacement. Americans have become truly auto-dependent.

The car has had a major impact on the culture and social norms across every part of American society. Today, the USA is still influential in automotive innovation especially in areas such as electric and self-drive vehicles.

USA automotive history timeline:
follow site 1916 The Federal Government enacts the first Federal Road Aid Act designed to transform the national road network. 1944 The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) is formed with the objective of supporting: road racing, rallying and autocross in the USA. 1956 The Federal Aid Highway Act authorized the construction of a national road network. The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways is now more commonly known as the Interstate Highway System, Interstate Freeways, or simply the Interstate.
1994 The idea for the formation of an American automobile museum group is formulated and meetings take place to make it happen. The National Association of Automobile Museums (NAAM) was incorporated in 1995.The first biennial conference was held in 1996 in conjunction with the Society of Automotive Historians.