Typically a four-wheeled vehicle, automobiles are the most common form of transport in the modern world. They are primarily used for passenger transportation. They are also designed to carry goods. They are fueled by gasoline or diesel. They have thousands of component parts and are a complex technical system.
First invented in Germany in the late 1800s, the modern automobile was perfected in France in the mid-to-late 1900s. There are over 70 million passenger cars in operation worldwide. These vehicles are used by 4.8 trillion kilometers (3 trillion miles) of drivers each year.
In Europe, the industry began to expand after World War II. By 1980, it was a global enterprise. It is estimated that one-quarter of all passenger cars on the road in the world are produced by foreign manufacturers.
The American manufacturing tradition helped to lower the cost of cars. In the early twentieth century, Ford Motor Company introduced manufacturing methods that revolutionized industrial manufacturing. It was the first to install assembly lines in its factory. Its Model T was one of the best-selling automobiles of all time. It was available in large quantities and sold for less than the average annual wage in the United States.
In the 19th century, there were numerous bicycle-like contraptions. In 1867, Sylvester Howard Roper created a similar machine. It was the precursor to the minivan.
In the United States, cheap raw materials and a shortage of skilled labor encouraged the mechanization of industrial processes. The lack of tariff barriers encouraged sales over a wide geographic area.