Thursday, October 18, 2012

Internal-Combustion Engine

Early Internal-Combustion Engine

One of the most important inventions of the mid- to late 1800s, the internal-combustion engine generated mechanical energy by burning fuel in a combustion chamber. The introduction of the new engine led almost immediately to the development of the automobile, which had been largely unfeasible with the unwieldy steam engine. Shown here is a 1925 Morris engine, the basic unit for a family car. It features four in-line cylinders with aluminum pistons. The valves are opened by push rods operated by a camshaft and closed by springs. Power is transmitted by means of the crankshaft to the gearbox.

Internal-Combustion Engine, any type of machine that obtains mechanical energy directly from the expenditure of the chemical energy of fuel burned in a combustion chamber that is an integral part of the engine. Four principal types of internal-combustion engines are in general use: the Otto-cycle engine, the diesel engine, the rotary engine, and the gas turbine. For the various types of engines employing the principle of jet propulsion, see Jet Propulsion; Rocket. The Otto-cycle engine, named after its inventor, the German technician Nikolaus August Otto, is the familiar gasoline engine used in automobiles and airplanes; the diesel engine, named after the French-born German engineer Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel, operates on a different principle and usually uses oil as a fuel. It is employed in electric-generating and marine-power plants, in trucks and buses, and in some automobiles. Both Otto-cycle and diesel engines are manufactured in two-stroke and four-stroke cycle models.
The essential parts of Otto-cycle and diesel engines are the same. The combustion chamber consists of a cylinder, usually fixed, that is closed at one end and in which a close-fitting piston slides. The in-and-out motion of the piston varies the volume of the chamber between the inner face of the piston and the closed end of the cylinder. The outer face of the piston is attached to a crankshaft by a connecting rod. The crankshaft transforms the reciprocating motion of the piston into rotary motion. In multicylindered engines the crankshaft has one offset portion, called a crankpin, for each connecting rod, so that the power from each cylinder is applied to the crankshaft at the appropriate point in its rotation. Crankshafts have heavy flywheels and counterweights, which by their inertia minimize irregularity in the motion of the shaft. An engine may have from 1 to as many as 28 cylinders.
The fuel supply system of an internal-combustion engine consists of a tank, a fuel pump, and a device for vaporizing or atomizing the liquid fuel. In Otto-cycle engines this device is either a carburetor or, more recently, a fuel-injection system. In most engines with a carburetor, vaporized fuel is conveyed to the cylinders through a branched pipe called the intake manifold and, in many engines, a similar exhaust manifold is provided to carry off the gases produced by combustion. The fuel is admitted to each cylinder and the waste gases exhausted through mechanically operated poppet valves or sleeve valves. The valves are normally held closed by the pressure of springs and are opened at the proper time during the operating cycle by cams on a rotating camshaft that is geared to the crankshaft. By the 1980s more sophisticated fuel-injection systems, also used in diesel engines, had largely replaced this traditional method of supplying the proper mix of air and fuel. In engines with fuel injection, a mechanically or electronically controlled monitoring system injects the appropriate amount of gas directly into the cylinder or inlet valve at the appropriate time. The gas vaporizes as it enters the cylinder. This system is more fuel efficient than the carburetor and produces less pollution.
In all engines some means of igniting the fuel in the cylinder must be provided. For example, the ignition system of Otto-cycle engines described below consists of a source of low-voltage, direct-current electricity that is connected to the primary of a transformer called an ignition coil. The current is interrupted many times a second by an automatic switch called the timer. The pulsations of the current in the primary induce a pulsating, high-voltage current in the secondary. The high-voltage current is led to each cylinder in turn by a rotary switch called the distributor. The actual ignition device is the spark plug, an insulated conductor set in the wall or top of each cylinder. At the inner end of the spark plug is a small gap between two wires. The high-voltage current arcs across this gap, yielding the spark that ignites the fuel mixture in the cylinder.
Because of the heat of combustion, all engines must be equipped with some type of cooling system. Some aircraft and automobile engines, small stationary engines, and outboard motors for boats are cooled by air. In this system the outside surfaces of the cylinder are shaped in a series of radiating fins with a large area of metal to radiate heat from the cylinder. Other engines are water-cooled and have their cylinders enclosed in an external water jacket. In automobiles, water is circulated through the jacket by means of a water pump and cooled by passing through the finned coils of a radiator. Some automobile engines are also air-cooled, and in marine engines sea water is used for cooling.
Unlike steam engines and turbines, internal-combustion engines develop no torque when starting, and therefore provision must be made for turning the crankshaft so that the cycle of operation can begin. Automobile engines are normally started by means of an electric motor or starter that is geared to the crankshaft with a clutch that automatically disengages the motor after the engine has started. Small engines are sometimes started manually by turning the crankshaft with a crank or by pulling a rope wound several times around the flywheel. Methods of starting large engines include the inertia starter, which consists of a flywheel that is rotated by hand or by means of an electric motor until its kinetic energy is sufficient to turn the crankshaft, and the explosive starter, which employs the explosion of a blank cartridge to drive a turbine wheel that is coupled to the engine. The inertia and explosive starters are chiefly used to start airplane engines.
The ordinary Otto-cycle engine is a four-stroke engine; that is, in a complete power cycle, its pistons make four strokes, two toward the head (closed head) of the cylinder and two away from the head. During the first stroke of the cycle, the piston moves away from the cylinder head while simultaneously the intake valve is opened. The motion of the piston during this stroke sucks a quantity of a fuel and air mixture into the combustion chamber. During the next stroke, the piston moves toward the cylinder head and compresses the fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. At the moment when the piston reaches the end of this stroke and the volume of the combustion chamber is at a minimum, the fuel mixture is ignited by the spark plug and burns, expanding and exerting a pressure on the piston, which is then driven away from the cylinder head in the third stroke. During the final stroke, the exhaust valve is opened and the piston moves toward the cylinder head, driving the exhaust gases out of the combustion chamber and leaving the cylinder ready to repeat the cycle.
The efficiency of a modern Otto-cycle engine is limited by a number of factors, including losses by cooling and by friction. In general, the efficiency of such engines is determined by the compression ratio of the engine. The compression ratio (the ratio between the maximum and minimum volumes of the combustion chamber) is usually about 8 to 1 or 10 to 1 in most modern Otto-cycle engines. Higher compression ratios, up to about 15 to 1, with a resulting increase of efficiency, are possible with the use of high-octane antiknock fuels. The efficiencies of good modern Otto-cycle engines range between 20 and 25 percent—in other words, only this percentage of the heat energy of the fuel is transformed into mechanical energy.
Theoretically, the diesel cycle differs from the Otto cycle in that combustion takes place at constant volume rather than at constant pressure. Most diesels are also four-stroke engines but they operate differently than the four-stroke Otto-cycle engines. The first, or suction, stroke draws air, but no fuel, into the combustion chamber through an intake valve. On the second, or compression, stroke the air is compressed to a small fraction of its former volume and is heated to approximately 440°C (approximately 820°F) by this compression. At the end of the compression stroke, vaporized fuel is injected into the combustion chamber and burns instantly because of the high temperature of the air in the chamber. Some diesels have auxiliary electrical ignition systems to ignite the fuel when the engine starts and until it warms up. This combustion drives the piston back on the third, or power, stroke of the cycle. The fourth stroke, as in the Otto-cycle engine, is an exhaust stroke.
The efficiency of the diesel engine, which is in general governed by the same factors that control the efficiency of Otto-cycle engines, is inherently greater than that of any Otto-cycle engine and in actual engines today is slightly more than 40 percent. Diesels are, in general, slow-speed engines with crankshaft speeds of 100 to 750 revolutions per minute (rpm) as compared to 2500 to 5000 rpm for typical Otto-cycle engines. Some types of diesel, however, have speeds up to 2000 rpm. Because diesels use compression ratios of 14 or more to 1, they are generally more heavily built than Otto-cycle engines, but this disadvantage is counterbalanced by their greater efficiency and the fact that they can be operated on less expensive fuel oils.
By suitable design it is possible to operate an Otto-cycle or diesel as a two-stroke or two-cycle engine with a power stroke every other stroke of the piston instead of once every four strokes. The power of a two-stroke engine is usually double that of a four-stroke engine of comparable size.
The general principle of the two-stroke engine is to shorten the periods in which fuel is introduced to the combustion chamber and in which the spent gases are exhausted to a small fraction of the duration of a stroke instead of allowing each of these operations to occupy a full stroke. In the simplest type of two-stroke engine, the poppet valves are replaced by sleeve valves or ports (openings in the cylinder wall that are uncovered by the piston at the end of its outward travel). In the two-stroke cycle, the fuel mixture or air is introduced through the intake port when the piston is fully withdrawn from the cylinder. The compression stroke follows, and the charge is ignited when the piston reaches the end of this stroke. The piston then moves outward on the power stroke, uncovering the exhaust port and permitting the gases to escape from the combustion chamber.
In the 1950s the German engineer Felix Wankel developed an internal-combustion engine of a radically new design, in which the piston and cylinder were replaced by a three-cornered rotor turning in a roughly oval chamber. The fuel-air mixture is drawn in through an intake port and trapped between one face of the turning rotor and the wall of the oval chamber. The turning of the rotor compresses the mixture, which is ignited by a spark plug. The exhaust gases are then expelled through an exhaust port through the action of the turning rotor. The cycle takes place alternately at each face of the rotor, giving three power strokes for each turn of the rotor. Because of the Wankel engine's compact size and consequent lesser weight as compared with the piston engine, it appeared to be an important option for automobiles. In addition, its mechanical simplicity provided low manufacturing costs, its cooling requirements were low, and its low center of gravity made it safer to drive. A line of Wankel-engine cars was produced in Japan in the early 1970s, and several United States automobile manufacturers researched the idea as well. However, production of the Wankel engine was discontinued as a result of its poor fuel economy and its high pollutant emissions. Mazda, a Japanese car manufacturer, has continued to design and innovate the rotary engine, improving performance and fuel efficiency.
A modification of the conventional spark-ignition piston engine, the stratified charge engine is designed to reduce emissions without the need for an exhaust-gas recirculation system or catalytic converter. Its key feature is a dual combustion chamber for each cylinder, with a prechamber that receives a rich fuel-air mixture while the main chamber is charged with a very lean mixture. The spark ignites the rich mixture that in turn ignites the lean main mixture. The resulting peak temperature is low enough to inhibit the formation of nitrogen oxides, and the mean temperature is sufficiently high to limit emissions of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon.
Research on modifications of conventional engines as well as alternatives to conventional engines continues. Some of these options include a modified version of the two-stroke engine, the twin engine (a combination of an internal-combustion engine and an electric engine), and the Stirling engine.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford

In 1903 American industrialist Henry Ford established the Ford Motor Company, the leading manufacturer of affordable cars in the early 1900s.

Henry Ford (1863-1947), American industrialist, best known for his pioneering achievements in the automobile industry.
Ford was born on a farm near Dearborn, Michigan, on July 30, 1863, and educated in district schools. He became a machinist's apprentice in Detroit at the age of 16. From 1888 to 1899 he was a mechanical engineer, and later chief engineer, with the Edison Illuminating Company. In 1896, after experimenting for years in his leisure hours, he completed the construction of his first automobile, the Quadricycle. In 1903 he founded the Ford Motor Company.
In 1913 Ford began using standardized interchangeable parts and assembly-line techniques in his plant. Although Ford neither originated nor was the first to employ such practices, he was chiefly responsible for their general adoption and for the consequent great expansion of American industry and the raising of the American standard of living.
By early 1914 this innovation, although greatly increasing productivity, had resulted in a monthly labor turnover of 40 to 60 percent in his factory, largely because of the unpleasant monotony of assembly-line work and repeated increases in the production quotas assigned to workers. Ford met this difficulty by doubling the daily wage then standard in the industry, raising it from about $2.50 to $5. The net result was increased stability in his labor force and a substantial reduction in operating costs. These factors, coupled with the enormous increase in output made possible by new technological methods, led to an increase in company profits from $30 million in 1914 to $60 million in 1916.
In 1908 the Ford company initiated production of the celebrated Model T. Until 1927, when the Model T was discontinued in favor of a more up-to-date model, the company produced and sold about 15 million cars. Within the ensuing few years, however, Ford's preeminence as the largest producer and seller of automobiles in the nation was gradually lost to his competitors, largely because he was slow to adopt the practice of introducing a new model of automobile each year, which had become standard in the industry. During the 1930s Ford adopted the policy of the yearly changeover, but his company was unable to regain the position it had formerly held.
In the period from 1937 to 1941, the Ford company became the only major manufacturer of automobiles in the Detroit area that had not recognized any labor union as the collective bargaining representative of employees. At hearings before the National Labor Relations Board Ford was found guilty of repeated violations of the National Labor Relations Act. The findings against him were upheld on appeal to the federal courts. Ford was constrained to negotiate a standard labor contract after a successful strike by the workers at his main plant at River Rouge, Michigan, in April 1941.
Early in 1941 Ford was granted government contracts whereby he was, at first, to manufacture parts for bombers and, later, the entire airplane. He thereupon launched the construction of a huge plant at Willow Run, Michigan, where production was begun in May 1942. Despite certain technical difficulties, by the end of World War II (1945) this plant had manufactured more than 8000 planes.
Ford was active in several other fields besides those of automobile and airplane manufacturing. In 1915 he chartered a peace ship, which carried him and a number of like-minded individuals to Europe, where they attempted without success to persuade the belligerent governments to end World War I. He was nominated for the office of U.S. senator from Michigan in 1918 but was defeated in the election. In the following year he erected the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit at a cost of $7.5 million. In 1919 he became the publisher of the Dearborn Independent, a weekly journal, which at first published anti-Semitic material. After considerable public protest, Ford directed that publication of such articles be discontinued and that a public apology be made to the Jewish people.
Advancing age obliged Ford to retire from the active direction of his gigantic enterprises in 1945. He died on April 7, 1947, in Dearborn. Ford left a personal fortune estimated at $500 to $700 million, bequeathing the largest share of his holdings in the Ford Motor Company to the Ford Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

Charles Duryea

Charles Duryea (1861-1938), American inventor and automobile manufacturer. Duryea and his brother, James Frank Duryea, built the first successful gasoline-powered American automobile.
Charles Edgar Duryea was born near Canton, Illinois. He graduated from the Gittings Seminary in La Harpe, Illinois, in 1882. Charles and Frank moved to Chicopee, Massachusetts, in the early 1890s to start a bicycle manufacturing business. The brothers also worked on designing motorized vehicles and built their first successful automobile in 1893.
The Duryea brothers built an improved automobile with a four-cycle engine in 1894. The next year in Chicago, this automobile won the first American automobile race, sponsored by the Chicago Times-Herald. Frank drove their automobile and Charles competed in the race with a German Benz automobile.
The Duryea brothers established the Duryea Motor Wagon Company in 1895. The company produced 13 cars in 1896 but was not profitable and dissolved in 1898. Frank designed another car, the Stevens-Duryea, and became a leader in the automotive industry. Charles organized the Duryea Power Company, which manufactured a three-cylinder car until 1914. He later became a consulting engineer. 

Automobile Racing

Automobile Racing, sport in which drivers race specially designed automobiles over tracks or courses of differing lengths, designs, and constructions. The competition tests the skills of the drivers, the speed capabilities of the vehicles, and the endurance of both. Originally consisting of occasional challenges among wealthy individuals in the United States and continental Europe, automobile racing has evolved into an international year-round professional sport that is one of the most popular spectator attractions in the world.
There are three basic types of race courses in automobile racing: (1) the oval track, (2) the road course, and (3) the straight-line course. Oval tracks, which can be dirt, asphalt, or concrete, range in length from 0.16 to 2.5 mi (0.27 to 4 km). Some oval tracks, longer than 1 mi (1.6 km) and highly banked (angled toward the ground), are called superspeedways. Road courses have either of two forms: courses that are created by temporarily closing city streets, and courses specially designed to duplicate the twists and turns of country roads but used only for racing. Road courses of both types are generally 1.5 to 4 mi (2.4 to 6.4 km) long in the United States, sometimes longer in other countries. Straight-line courses consist of a simple strip of asphalt or concrete used for drag races between two vehicles. Straight-line courses are generally 0.25 mi (0.4 km) long, but they can be 0.125 mi (0.2 km) long as well.
There are five basic components of an automobile racing team: (1) the ownership, (2) the team manager, (3) the driver, (4) the support crew, and (5) the sponsors. The ownership of the car is in charge of the team but usually employs a manager to run operations on a day-to-day basis. The driver is always an independent contractor. Drivers usually compete in a variety of different cars for different owners throughout their careers. The support crew maintains the car before, during, and after races. The driver and support crew work together during races to handle needed repairs, tire changes, and fuel refills (done during brief service breaks known as pit stops). Finally, sponsors, usually corporations, provide money to the racing team in exchange for promotional ties. The most obvious examples of this relationship are company and product logos, which are commonly seen on the outside of vehicles during races.
Although there are many categories of automobile racing—and many types and levels of competition within each category—the major forms of the sport differ in the United States and abroad. In most parts of the world, the premier race series are those for Formula One (F1) vehicles and for sports cars. These competitions receive less attention in the United States, where the most important race series are those for Indianapolis (Indy) cars and for stock cars. Some drivers and teams move between American and overseas forms of racing, but this is uncommon.
The coordinating committee for automobile racing in the United States is the Automobile Competition Committee for the United States (ACCUS), which serves as the U.S. representative on the Fédération International de l'Automobile (FIA; International Automobile Federation), the worldwide governing body of the sport. ACCUS coordinates activities between FIA and six major sanctioning bodies for automobile racing in the United States—addressing rules, regulations, automotive specifications, safety, and related matters. The eight organizational members of ACCUS are Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), Indy Racing League (IRL), Grand American Road Racing Association (GRAND-AM), Professional Sports Car Racing (PSC), the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), and the United States Auto Club (USAC).
In the late 19th century racing cars were motorized versions of horse-drawn carriages and wagons. These soon gave way to slightly more advanced vehicles as the conditions of roads improved. As the speeds of cars increased a need for more sophistication and specialization developed, and cars were designed expressly to be raced.
Racing cars now fall into two broad categories: open-wheeled vehicles and closed-wheeled vehicles. Open-wheeled vehicles refers to cars in which the wheels are not enclosed beneath fenders. These cars have open cockpits, although (according to type) there can be a roll bar or cage over the driver for protection in case of a crash. The cars are streamlined for speed and are single-seated, meaning that only one person can be in the vehicle. They come in varieties ranging from modest karts (small motorized vehicles) to extremely complex F1 and Indy cars. Closed-wheeled vehicles have an enclosed cockpit and so somewhat resemble standard street cars. These automobiles, sometimes called stock cars, are in reality racing vehicles with only the bodywork of a street car. Because they are purpose-built for racing, stock cars are not suited for driving on public streets.
Formula One
Formula racing, or single-seat automobile racing in which car specifications are strictly regulated, is governed by FIA. Periodically, FIA sets technical regulations for building, maintaining, and racing many different classes of cars. The sophisticated vehicles used in Formula One (F1) racing are the most technologically advanced in racing. Their design causes air to flow over and under the car (aided by body features known as wings), creating a downward force that holds the car close to the ground even at high speeds. Designed for road racing, F1 cars can accelerate and brake quickly. FIA also regulates slower and less advanced single-seat cars competing in such categories as Formula Two (F2), Formula Three (F3), and the GP2 series, which was called Formula 3000 (F3000) prior to 2005.
For many years FIA had sole authority over F1 racing, but beginning in the early 1970s other governing bodies began to emerge. The Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA), based in London, England, led the challenge. FOCA is made up of the companies that manufacture the cars used in F1 racing. According to an agreement first drafted in 1982 between FIA and FOCA, the latter group controls the distribution of funds generated by F1 racing, making sure that each competing team has sufficient money to race in the next competition.
For much of automobile racing history there were no restrictions on technological development, so F1 cars became the most technologically advanced racing vehicles possible. Beginning in the early 1990s, however, FIA began slowing the introduction of new materials, systems, and electronics to F1. A principal reason for these restrictions was FIA's desire to limit the car operations controlled by computers. Even systems that are standard in many street cars, such as antilock brakes (a computerized system that decreases the chances of skidding while braking), are prohibited in F1 racing. Another factor is the desire to hold down the high costs of innovation that favor large, heavily financed racing teams over smaller, poorer ones. Despite these regulations, F1 cars are still considered to be the ultimate in single-seat racing car construction, and F1 races are often called the most glamorous automobile racing events in the world. Accomplished F1 drivers have included Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell, and Damon Hill of the United Kingdom; Alain Prost of France; Michael Schumacher of Germany; Mika Hakkinen of Finland; Ayrton Senna of Brazil; and Dan Gurney and Italian-born Mario Andretti of the United States.
Grand Prix
The term Grand Prix (GP), which means “grand prize” and is commonly associated with F1 racing, was originally incorporated into the names of many auto races. But beginning in 1906 at Le Mans it came to refer to the principal F1 auto race in a given nation, except in the United States, where the term continues to be used less discriminately. After the end of World War I in 1918, when automobile racing blossomed internationally, a series of GP races in several nations became reserved for F1 competition, and an annual GP calendar was developed consisting of national races, such as the French Grand Prix and the British Grand Prix. An annual award called the World Championship of Drivers began in 1950, with the winner determined from F1 results each year. In 1958 an F1 Constructors' Championship competed with the World Manufacturers' Championship, a competition associated with sports-car racing (see below). These championships are based on race results but reward the companies that build the race cars, rather than the drivers.
Indy Car Racing
One reason F1 racing lacks the same popularity in America that it holds in the rest of the world is the presence of Indy car racing, a rival form of single-seat racing. Indy cars were developed after the establishment in 1911 of the Indianapolis 500, perhaps the world’s best-known automobile race and one of the most popular American sports events. The event is not just a single day of racing, but rather a three-week ritual of testing, practicing, and qualifying. Indy cars run not only at Indianapolis but also at a series of races around the United States and occasionally in other countries.
Modern Indy cars, sometimes known as championship cars, are similar to F1 automobiles: open-wheeled with open cockpits. For much of their history there were, however, several important differences. Indy cars were originally designed for counterclockwise racing at fairly constant speeds on oval tracks, while F1 cars were designed to turn in either direction equally well (for racing on road courses) at radically varying rates of speed. Indy cars had less efficient braking systems because they needed to slow and stop primarily to refuel and change tires in pit stops, while F1 cars ran on courses that required not only high speeds but also maximum braking efficiency in negotiating tight corners.
In the 1960s and early 1970s Indy car design grew more similar to F1 configurations when European drivers using cars influenced by F1 designs started enjoying success in Indy car racing. In the 1980s Indy cars began racing on both oval circuits and road courses. Because of these changes, Indy cars have become much more like their F1 counterparts.
There are currently two sanctioning bodies that administer Indy Car racing. Under various names, the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) organization has been the main group for Indy cars through the years. A second group, the Indy Racing League (IRL), was created by the organizers of the Indianapolis 500 in 1996 using different car specifications. This move effectively split the sport, with the IRL attracting one group of drivers for its races, including the famous Indy 500, and CART offering a different series of races. The groups have made progress toward common automobile specifications so drivers can compete on both circuits. Famed Indy car drivers include Mauri Rose, Wilbur Shaw, Johnny Rutherford, Louis Meyer, A. J. Foyt, Al Unser, Rick Mears, Bobby Unser, Emerson Fittipaldi, and Al Unser, Jr.
Stock Car Racing
Although stock cars race in several countries, the class is most associated with the United States because of the powerful public presence of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), the sport's governing body. Stock car racing was once associated primarily with the southern United States, but now enjoys a national audience. Stock cars were similar to conventional cars when this type of racing began, just prior to World War II (1939-1945). But since NASCAR was founded in the late 1940s there has been a trend away from street cars. Despite relatively normal outward appearances, today’s stock cars are pure racing machines that can reach speeds of up to 200 mph (322 km/h). Originally run on beaches and dirt tracks, NASCAR races are now held on paved ovals and, in major events, on high-banked superspeedways. The major stock car racing events are the Daytona 500, run in Daytona Beach, Florida, and the Coca-Cola 600, in Charlotte, North Carolina. NASCAR’s marquee racing series is the Nextel Cup (formerly the Winston Cup).
Stock car racing’s fan base grew rapidly in the 1990s. One factor is that stock car drivers are generally more accessible to fans than F1 or sports car drivers. In addition, stock car drivers and their cars—familiar names such as Dodge, Ford, Chevrolet, and Pontiac—usually receive better American media coverage than other forms of racing. While some of the most successful stock car drivers retired in the 1990s, such as Richard Petty and Bobby Allison, younger drivers, such as Jeff Gordon, Ricky Rudd, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Kevin Harvick have replaced them as stars of the sport. Stock car racing below the NASCAR level is a thriving sport in the United States, bolstered by a well-established fan base. These stock cars run on many of the same tracks that are used for other racing series.
Sports Car Racing
Like stock cars, some sports cars appear to be street cars, commonly carrying manufacturer names such as Corvette, Porsche, Ferrari, and Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW). But, as in stock car racing, the resemblance ends with appearance. Sports cars are racing machines specially built to run at high speeds over long distances. Operating under strict FIA regulations for their construction, sports cars race in many classes in Europe, the United States, and in other countries. The most prestigious seasonal title is the World Manufacturers' Championship. The Canadian-American Challenge series—established in 1966 for the FIA's Unlimited Group 7 sports cars, among the fastest automobiles in the world—was a major racing series in North America until it was discontinued in 1984. The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) runs other series. American sports car racing is generally a slower and less sophisticated form of racing than European sports car racing. However, it is also less costly; the organizers, owners, drivers, and teams are more attuned to the marketing requirements of the manufacturers, who are trying to sell cars, tires, and other components through racing publicity.
Drag Racing
Drag racing is a form of specialized automotive competition that is most popular in the United States, although it is also run on a limited basis in England, Canada, and Australia. In a drag race, two cars begin side by side from a standing start, aiming to finish the straight-line course—called the drag strip and usually 0.25-mi (0.4-km) long—in as fast a time and as high a speed as possible. Such cars, known as drag racers, take many forms. Some have engines behind the driver and parachute-assisted braking. Speeds accelerate and decelerate rapidly, and are calculated in both miles per hour and miles per second.
Drag racing owes its origin to hot rods, cars specially modified for improved acceleration and speed, which were first built in southern California in the late 1930s and tested on the American salt flats. Drag racing was formalized in 1937 with the creation of the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA), an organization of automobile enthusiasts who experimented with and raced their cars in the California desert. World War II (1939-1945) interrupted development of the sport, but after 1945 it blossomed, helped by the U.S. Air Force, which saw drag racing as a way to identify young men who could serve in the mechanical and flight crews of the Strategic Air Command. The first paved strips for drag racing, in fact, were runways at air bases and airports. The first formal drag strip was opened in Goleta, California, in 1948. The sport spread rapidly, and today there are hundreds of drag-strip facilities at which more than 5,000 events are run annually. Numerous organizations oversee American drag racing, the most important of which is the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).
There are two kinds of rallying. One is the international professional rally, which is a FIA-sanctioned test of endurance and speed over great distances and in more challenging conditions than those provided by a closed course. Some argue that the first automobile competitions in the 1890s were more rallies than races. Professional international rallyists now use what essentially are pure racing cars, and rallies are held in deserts and other rough terrain in many places, including Africa and Australia. Perhaps the most famous traditional rally is the Monte Carlo, which began in 1911, the same year as the Indianapolis 500. Each year this race begins in different European cities, with the vehicles converging on Monte Carlo, Monaco. Though some track racers have also been rallyists, most drivers specialize in this form of racing and are not well known to the public, despite their skills.
Rallying in the United States mainly consists of time-speed-distance (TSD) competitions. TSD rallies involve amateur drivers using tuned production (not special) cars to negotiate streets and country roads while adhering to strict time schedules and routes. Contestants are expected to reach a series of checkpoints at specified times while maintaining a certain average speed set by the race's organizers. There are penalties for arriving too early or too late. Competitors must follow a specific route, often over obscure roads, so the driver needs a navigator and odometers and stopwatches are necessary equipment. American rallying has been popular since the mid-20th century, with events taking place throughout the country. SCCA is the major sanctioning body in American rallying.
Off-Road Racing
Off-road racing blossomed first in California in the 1960s. As the name implies, in off-road racing there are no formal courses, only rudimentary trails. The financial requirements of providing logistic support for the race car result in well-financed teams dominating the main events in off-road racing, such as the Baja 500 and the Mexican 1000, both run on the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico. While old cars and vehicles cobbled together from automobile and motorcycle components were once the standard in this sport, the vehicles have evolved into carefully designed, extremely expensive cars capable of surviving competition in the harsh desert conditions. Limited commercialization has taken place in the sport because of the difficulty of charging admission to such events and because of the heavy demands off-road racing makes on drivers and machines. A recreational sport and industry has grown out of off-road racing, however, chiefly involving dune buggies and off-road vehicles.
Other Forms of American Racing
There are many other forms of automobile racing in the United States that are regional, less expensive, and often less regulated than the major types. These forms of racing have traditionally provided a training ground for drivers, mechanics, and promoters.
Dirt-track racing is one of these forms. Early American oval track racing began mainly on county-owned, half-mile dirt tracks originally intended for horse racing and other attractions. The front-engine, open-wheeled cars used in dirt-track racing also competed at Indianapolis and other paved courses into the early 1950s. The sport has diminished in recent years, although it is still popular in some states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Arizona, and California.
Front-engine sprint cars, which race mostly on clay tracks, were once smaller versions of Indy cars before Indy cars adopted rear-engine construction. While the sport still attracts many fans, it is no longer a training ground for Indy car aspirants, who now turn to rear-engine vehicles for training.
Midget-car racing is another form that played an important role in the overall popularization of automobile racing. Midget cars—scaled down front-engine, open-wheeled vehicles that trace their racing history to 1933—do not need a formal track on which to run. Races can be staged either outdoors—for example, at baseball parks—or indoors—on any large concrete or dirt floor. Midget-car racing's popularity peaked in the 1940s, but it nevertheless created generations of ardent followers. The Thanksgiving Day tradition of midget-car racing on the West Coast dates to the early 1930s.
Smaller versions of automobile racing also include motorized karts, quarter midgets (sometimes raced by children), and three-quarter midgets. Pick-up truck racing on longer paved speedways has also found limited public acceptance in recent years.
Land Speed Record Cars
The quest for the ultimate speed on land has a rich history as an automotive pursuit. This quest began before the advent of paved roads, on December 18, 1898, at Achères, France. A French count, Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat, claimed the title of fastest driver in a car, reaching a then-frightening speed of 39.24 mph (63.15 km/h). In April 1899 Belgian driver Camille Jenatzy ran an electric car at 65.79 mph (105.88 km/h). In 1904, 100 mph (161 km/h) was exceeded for the first time, when French driver Louis Rigolly drove 103.55 mph (166.65 km/h) at Oostende, Belgium. The land speed record (LSR) moved steadily upward, and beginning in 1910 LSRs were standardized as the average speed of two mile-long (1.6-kilometer-long) runs over the same distance from opposite directions within a time limit (to account for wind).
By 1947 the record was 394.20 mph (634.40 km/h), set by English driver John Cobb at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Up to this point, LSRs were set using vehicles with highly developed wheel-driven, piston-type automobile or airplane engines. Subsequently, with the acceptance of gas-turbine, pure jet, and rocket engines, the LSR machine forever changed, with records falling faster and by greater margins than ever. In 1963 American driver Craig Breedlove demolished Cobb's 16-year-old record at Bonneville, using a three-wheeled, jet-propelled car to achieve a speed of 407.45 mph (655.73 km/h). In the next two years a succession of LSR challenges were run, culminating in 1965 when Breedlove drove 600.60 mph (966.60 km/h) at Bonneville.
That record stood until American driver Gary Gabelich averaged 630.39 mph (1014.51 km/h) at Bonneville in 1970, probably the last LSR attempt to be run there because of course deterioration. Gabelich's record stood until 1983, when British driver Richard Noble raised the LSR mark to 633.47 mph (1019.47 km/h) at Black Rock Desert, Nevada. In 1997 British driver Andy Green drove 763.035 mph (1227.986 km/h), or 341.107 m/sec (1119.117 ft/sec), at Black Rock Desert. Green's run was the first official record faster than the speed of sound (332 m/sec, or 1,088 ft/sec).
The first automobile competition took place in 1894. This event was not a race but a 90-mi (145-km) reliability run (to test the vehicle's performance and durability) from Paris to Rouen, France. In 1895 an endurance race was run from Paris to Bordeaux and back—a distance of 732 mi (1,178 km). France continued to lead in development of both cars and motor sports, with a series of one-day speed races on existing roads beginning in 1897. The world's first closed-circuit race was in 1900 at Melun, outside Paris, on temporarily closed roads spanning 45 mi (72 km). The first formal closed-circuit race venue was the 53-mi (85-km) Circuit des Ardennes, opened in 1902 in Ardennes, Belgium. City-to-city racing effectively ended in 1903 after several accidents at what was then a high speed of 65 mph (105 km/h). In 1907 the first European track race was held at the Brooklands Motor Course, near Weybridge, England. However, road racing continued to be more popular than closed-track racing in Europe.
Auto racing in the United States began similarly. The first race was a reliability demonstration from Chicago to Waukegan, Illinois, and back—a distance of 92 mi (148 km)—in November 1895. A more formal reliability race the same month, a roundtrip from Chicago to Evanston, Illinois, was won with an average speed of 5.1 mph (8.2 km/h). True American road racing began in 1904 with the Vanderbilt Cup races, contested over a 28-mi (45-km) course in Long Island, New York. These races continued until 1916. Other major road races were organized in Savannah, Georgia, beginning in 1908, and in Elgin, Illinois, in 1910.
Although Americans participated in and became important sponsors of early road races both in the United States and in Europe, U.S. enthusiasts favored closed-circuit racing almost from the outset. The benefits included better spectator safety, improved course management, and the ability to charge admission. The horse racing tracks that served as the earliest closed-course automobile-racing sites in the United States gradually yielded to specialized dirt tracks, followed by paved ovals. The first American oval-track race occurred at the Rhode Island State Fairgrounds in Cranston in 1896, with a winning average speed of 26.8 mph (43.1 km/h). A major milestone for U.S. racing was the opening of the 2.5-mi (4-km) brick-surfaced Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana in 1909.
Short and long high-speed, banked courses—fashioned primarily from wood—also enjoyed great acceptance in the United States. The first high-banked board speedway opened in Playa del Rey, California, in 1910. More than 20 similar tracks of 0.5 to 2 mi (0.8 to 3.2 km) each were built across the country between 1915 and 1926. The popularity of board-track racing peaked in 1926, and in 1930 the last major race of this kind was held at Altoona, Pennsylvania. Because wood deteriorated and splintered, such tracks were notoriously difficult to maintain.
The major historical importance of board racing came in the technological innovations that it fostered. Cars that raced the boards were specially designed rather than adaptations of production cars that had been the norm before the rise of board tracks. These cars were equipped with balloon tires (inflated by air as opposed to being made of solid rubber), four-wheel brakes, four-wheel drive, and superchargers (devices to improve the power output of engines). Board racers also streamlined car bodies to increase speeds and added tetraethyl lead to gasoline for enhanced performance. Thus, the open-wheeled car designed expressly for racing is a descendant of the board-track car.
Racing was interrupted by World War II, but the sport experienced a revival with the reopening of the Indianapolis Speedway in 1946. In 1948 Watkins Glen staged its first road race and the first drag strip opened. In the 1950s sports car racing became popular, especially in Europe, while in the early 1960s stock car racing attracted increasing interest in the United States. As automobile racing grew the sport also became more specialized. At one time, the American Automobile Association Contest Board ran most racing in the United States, but by the mid-1950s each of the four forms of the sport—championship car racing, stock car racing, drag racing, and road racing—had its own sanctioning organization. Later, the sport became even more segmented.
The sport boomed in the 1980s and 1990s with an increase in television coverage, which brought both new fans and increased revenues. The most popular drivers became household names, including those with multiple family members achieving success (names such as Earnhardt, Petty, Unser, and Andretti). NASCAR, in particular, was able to capitalize on the growing fan base. Indy car racing has failed to grow as much, largely because of a 1996 split into two rival series run by different organizations, Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) and Indy Racing League (IRL). This division has forced some of the top drivers out of the Indianapolis 500, weakening the sport’s single biggest drawing card and most historic event. Some drivers and teams have also defected from Indy car racing to the NASCAR circuit.
One of the most important issues in auto racing is spectator and driver safety. The sport has always been dangerous, with every innovation to increase speed also ratcheting up the level of danger. Unfortunately, although some safety measures—such as fire control and better helmets—have been developed in response to accidents, the innovations did not stem the tide of deaths. One study done in 2001 estimated that, at all levels of the sport, there were more than 250 racing-related deaths in the United States since 1990. In particular, the deaths of several high-profile drivers—Ayrton Senna in 1994, Adam Petty in 2000, and Dale Earnhardt in 2001—highlighted the need for mandatory head restraints and other safety controls, and the governing bodies of the sport began to act. Spectators who are killed when parts of cars fly into the grandstands also remain a concern for the sport.
Another problem in automobile racing both in the United States and internationally is the immense cost of competing. Driver salaries have skyrocketed and the cost of building a car capable of winning is often enormous, sometimes into the millions of dollars. To win a racing series, such as the Indy car championship or the Winston Cup, requires a fortune for salaries, construction, engine rental and maintenance, and other related costs. Modern racing teams require large corporate sponsorships along with lucrative television deals to have a chance to win. These sources of revenue can suddenly dry up if the overall economy sours or other problems develop, such as the governmental restrictions on tobacco advertising that have hurt the sport financially in recent years.
Another concern is the rapid rate of technological change in automobile racing. Early in the sport's development the race cars changed gradually, often with years intervening between significant innovations. Over time, however, it became increasingly common for competitors to actively seek technological superiority. This can be very costly, as research, technical staff, and implementing change itself (requiring the physical construction of new cars or components) add a great deal to the cost of running a race car. If a team does not keep up with the cutting-edge technology, however, it may be sacrificing a chance for victory. Such challenges will continue to be part of automobile racing in the years ahead.

Automobile Industry

Robots weld parts of an automobile together on an automated production line in Fenton, Missouri. As computer and robot technology has become more advanced, robots are increasingly able to perform more complicated tasks.

Automobile Industry, industry that produces automobiles and other gasoline-powered vehicles, such as buses, trucks, and motorcycles. The automobile industry is one of the most important industries in the world, affecting not only the economy but also the cultures of the world. It provides jobs for millions of people, generates billions of dollars in worldwide revenues, and provides the basis for a multitude of related service and support industries. Automobiles revolutionized transportation in the 20th century, changing forever the way people live, travel, and do business.
The automobile has enabled people to travel and transport goods farther and faster, and has opened wider market areas for business and commerce. The auto industry has also reduced the overall cost of transportation by using methods such as mass production (making several products at once, rather than one at a time), mass marketing (selling products nationally rather than locally), and globalization of production (assembling products with parts made worldwide). From 1886 to 1898, about 300 automobiles were built, but there was no real established industry. A century later, with automakers and auto buyers expanding globally, automaking became the world's largest manufacturing activity, with nearly 58 million new vehicles built each year worldwide.
As a result of easier and faster transportation, the United States and world economies have become dependent on the mobility that automobiles, trucks, and buses provide. This mobility allowed remote populations to interact with one another, which increased commerce. The transportation of goods to consumers and consumers to goods has become an industry in itself. The automobile has also brought related problems, such as air pollution, the emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, congested traffic, and highway fatalities. Nevertheless, the automobile industry continues to be an important source of employment and transportation for millions of people worldwide.
Automobile manufacturers are among the largest companies in the world. These corporations are often multinational, meaning they have subsidiaries and manufacturing plants in many different countries. These companies often share parts, use parts made in foreign factories, or assemble entire cars in foreign countries. The three major automobile manufacturers in the United States—General Motors Corporation, Ford Motor Company, and Chrysler, formerly DaimlerChrysler AG—provide much of the industry's total direct employment in the United States, but increasingly foreign automakers, such as Toyota Motor Corporation and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., are building automobile assembly plants in the United States.
Foreign automakers are taking advantage of tax incentives and laws that discourage union organization in the Southern United States, in particular. Eleven foreign-owned auto plants operated in the United States in 1993. By 2007 that number had grown to 28. Many of these plants were located in such states as Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
Automotive parts manufacturers are another large section of the U.S. auto industry, comprising about 5,000 firms, including Japanese, European, and Canadian companies. These firms supply the original equipment market (for manufacture) and the replacement parts market (for maintenance and repair). By some estimates, for every job created in the automobile assembly industry, three to four jobs are created in the automotive parts industry. Numerous other industries support the automobile industry. These include the insurance, security, petroleum, and roadway design and construction industries. Still other industries, such as motels, drive-in theaters, and fast-food restaurants, owe their existence to the mobility provided by the automobile.
Domestic Impact
The automobile industry directly influences the economies of the United States and other countries around the world. In a typical year, the U.S. automobile industry generates between 12 and 14 percent of manufacturers' shipments of durable goods (products designed to last at least three years). Automobile production consumes large amounts of iron, steel, aluminum, and natural rubber. The automobile industry also consumes more copper, glass, zinc, leather, plastic, lead, and platinum than any other U.S. industry.
Rising imported car sales in the United States during the 1980s threatened the economic strength of U.S. automakers. Domestic sales rebounded in the 1990s, but as the 21st century began, foreign carmakers resumed making inroads in U.S. car sales. Ford saw its car and truck market share in North America fall to about 17 percent in 2005, returning to its percentage share in the 1980s, and General Motors saw its North American market share drop to 26 percent in 2005. In July 2007 foreign automakers outsold U.S. car companies in the United States for the first time ever, taking 51.9 percent of the market in cars and light trucks, including sport utility vehicles (SUVs). In the first quarter of 2007 Toyota overtook GM as the largest car seller worldwide.
Foreign Trade
Sales of U.S. motor vehicles to Americans are expected to remain near the same level in the future, with about 1 to 2 percent growth per year, while foreign markets are expanding at rates that are two, three, and even ten times faster. Because exports will be essential to expanding the auto and auto parts industries, U.S. trade officials have negotiated trade agreements such as the Memorandum of Understanding with Korea (1993), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA, 1994), and the U.S.-Japan Automotive Framework Agreement (1995). These and other agreements have increased automobile and other exports to Japan, Mexico, and Korea many times over.
In 1994 the United States successfully promoted the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which helped American auto export potential because it improved access to both major and developing markets. These initiatives have helped the U.S. automotive industry achieve the highest level of exports on record.
Making a car involves several major decisions about the design of the car, how it will be built, and how it will be sold. Managers must also coordinate factory production, purchase materials, and train workers—all within a budget. Marketing teams must then sell the car and project returns on shareholder investments. New models are introduced yearly, but a single car design can take several years to get from the drawing board to the showroom floor. A typical company will therefore have several new designs in various stages of development at any given time.
The group within an automobile company that makes the main decisions about new cars often includes the chairman of the board and board members, the president, the marketing director, the sales director, the finance director, and the head of product development. These leaders must budget money, recruit a workforce, and set realistic deadlines. Rather than sending ideas from step to step as they are completed, leaders collaborate from the start with designers and engineers in a process known as simultaneous engineering to increase the speed and efficiency of car production. Engineering, manufacturing, sales, and other specialized departments in turn support the leadership decisions. Most of these positions require college degrees and extensive training. Companies also rely on the administrative services of clerks, typists, telephone operators, and others to support the process of automaking.
Research, Design, and Development
Before a new car is built, it must be researched, designed, and developed into a workable product. Researchers analyze market trends, consumer surveys, and buying patterns to determine what consumers want, and then suggest what kinds of cars to make. Designers work to shape these new ideas into tangible parts or products. Engineers adapt existing parts for the new model and draw up new plans for the prototype. A prototype is a custom-built working example of a new design. Manufacturers begin by building a few prototypes before they set up a factory to build the new car. Product planners monitor the process along the way and make sure that an approved new car program finishes on time and within budget.
As technology advances, new cars continually feature new systems and innovations. Change and innovation in the auto industry take time to implement and must allow for, but not be overwhelmed by, consumer whims or government regulations. New systems are usually introduced one at a time, or new technologies applied to one area at a time. A new component system (such as a new braking system) in a fully developed prototype can take as long as four years to incorporate into a new model. Part of this time is needed to design, build, and install production tools to make the new model. Testing the new system on rough mock-ups (called test beds) and in preproduction vehicles to see what happens to overall performance takes additional time.
Meanwhile, members of the marketing and sales staffs select a name for the new product, conduct surveys to determine what share of the market the new model can anticipate, and troubleshoot potential problems. Initial production targets are set according to available market research results.
Once the board approves the model and name, the first working prototype emerges from experimental workshops. Board members try out the working prototype, then experts take it through extensive tests, including wind tunnel, dust tunnel, factory track, water-proofing bays, desert heat, arctic cold, and crash tests.
Manufacturing and Assembly
Before a new model can be built, the factory must first be retooled. Retooling a factory involves changing the machines on the factory floor to produce a different style of automobile. Skilled tool makers, pattern makers, and die makers look at the specifications for the new car parts and cooperate with the tool design office to craft the tools and modify, or tool up, the machines.
The purchasing department assures that needed supplies for production are available on time and within budget. Qualified buyers have knowledge of both engineering and accounting, and they are responsible for ordering the raw materials to make the parts in-house or for ordering finished components from a parts supplier.
After raw materials are received and inspected, they are cast, forged, stamped, or molded into different body shapes (see Forging). Press shop workers operate the machines that stamp steel into body panels. Fiberglass molders and cutters help mold large plastic body parts and cut the rough edges. Paint shop workers and spray gun operators put the final touches on the plastic or steel shell. Since many of these body-making jobs have been or are being automated, there is an increasing need for computer analysts, programmers, and technicians. These computer-oriented positions usually require college degrees or post-high-school training.
Machine operators, who work in all parts of the factory, are particularly important in engine building. They take the rough castings and forgings of the engine parts and machine them to the required tolerances and accuracy. Machine operators need to be skilled, with experience on numerically controlled and computerized machinery. Engine builders put the engine parts together by hand, a job for car mechanics who can quickly understand changes in engine design.
Manufacturing personnel work on the assembly lines and operate numerous machines, computers, robots, and other equipment to produce the items needed for each car. Heat treatment tempers and strengthens the forged and cast parts, which are then shaped into components that are assembled into subassemblies (gearboxes, axles, engines, doors, dashboards). The chassis (the underlying frame of the automobile) and body are joined and painted. Electricians, many of whom are first hired as apprentices or trained in company training programs, make sure that electrical parts are correctly fitted and connected in the car.
Components and subassemblies are gradually combined along the assembly line at different points to construct the car. Line operators generally are less skilled workers who carry out one or two simple assembly line operations. The manufacturer gives these workers limited training. At almost every stage of the assembly process, skilled inspectors assure the quality of the work.
This pattern of production, which emerged from 1900 to 1920, changed little in the first 80 years of the century. Beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s, manufacturers began buying completed subassemblies instead of their components—completed dashboards, for instance, rather than individual instruments—and began building the auto body around these subassemblies. These and other production strategies have enabled companies to address the fast-changing market more rapidly and effectively. Companies can now change production lines faster and make more specialized cars more economically.
Sales and Service
Market researchers contribute to the original design process and continue their studies throughout the manufacture and sale of a car. Market researchers compile newspaper, industry, and public reaction from polls and product surveys. They use these findings to help plan sales campaigns. For example, if surveys show consumers like the energy-saving features of a car, then those features might be the focus of advertising. The advertising department uses results from polls and focus groups (small groups of potential consumers) to shape advertising tools for dealers as well as national advertising campaigns aimed directly at the public.
The corporate sales staff works with the car dealers throughout the country to prepare them to sell the new product. Toward the end of the 20th century, the number of dealerships declined, but their size and the number of total cars sold increased. In 1950 about 47,000 dealers sold 7.2 million vehicles. By 1985 half as many dealers sold twice as many cars. High-volume dealers, called megadealers, with multiple locations and multiple franchises (agreements with several companies to sell their cars) compete most favorably. Car supermarkets (establishments that sell used cars at a fixed price, often with a 30-day return policy) and dealerships with separate repair and sales departments are two current trends that are likely to continue. Many car dealerships in the United States also devote a portion of their sales staff to Internet sales. Internet sales associates help potential buyers research and purchase cars online.
Dealership mechanics must learn how to maintain and repair new models. More than 80 percent of the functions of the average automobile are controlled by electronics. This has created a large need for educated mechanics who can also operate computerized diagnostic equipment. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) was established in 1972 to help consumers select competent service professionals. ASE Certification of mechanics increased from 8,567 in 1972 to more than 400,000 in 2002. Trade and technical schools continue to be the major source of training for service professionals, who work in car dealerships, service stations, tire shops, and elsewhere.
Customer Feedback
Consumers have increasingly become part of the team that shapes the products that are designed and built—especially since the 1960s and 1970s. The company maintains a press fleet so automotive correspondents can test drive new models and review them. In some companies, top executives also test drive new cars and give their feedback. Focus groups of consumers are organized to test recent innovations to see if they would be suitable to apply across a product line. For example, focus groups of consumers who like off-road operation provided the initial market test of four-wheel drive passenger cars. Other consumer groups have road tested innovations such as fuel injection, turbocharging, and trip computers. After these focus groups give their feedback, designers refine the innovations and introduce them into other vehicles.
Automobiles as we know them today are the product of centuries of tinkering and innovation. Automobile production has grown from small companies making simple so-called horseless carriages to international corporations that mass-produce advanced, reliable automobiles for consumers.
Early Automobile Concepts
In the 15th century, Italian inventor Leonardo da Vinci envisioned possibilities for power-driven vehicles. By the late 17th century, English physicist Sir Isaac Newton had proposed a steam carriage, and by the late 18th century French army captain Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot had actually built one. By the mid-1800s, the popularity of steam vehicles began to decline because they were dangerous to operate and difficult to maintain. At about the same time, inventors became interested in the internal-combustion engine.
Robert Street of England filed a patent in 1794 that summarized how an internal-combustion engine might work, but it was Belgian-born French inventor Jean-Joseph-Étienne Lenoir who built the first commercially successful internal-combustion engine in 1859. Lenoir’s engine had a carburetor that mixed liquid hydrocarbons, which formed a vapor. An electric spark in a cylinder ignited the vapor. By 1876 German shop clerk Nikolaus August Otto had improved on Lenoir's engine, and the Otto engine became the model of the internal-combustion engines used today. Germans Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz attached motors to tricycles and automobiles, building what are regarded as the first modern cars in 1885 and 1886 (DaimlerChrysler AG).
In America, lawyer George Baldwin Selden studied many of the European engines at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876, then redesigned what he considered to be the best among them. He reduced the engine weight so it could power a light road vehicle. Selden patented his engine, so he ultimately received a royalty, or small payment, for almost every car made in the United States.
Charles Edgar Duryea and his brother Frank are credited with the first production automobile made in the United States. Their small company produced 13 cars in 1896, ushering in the automobile industry. Only a few more cars were sold in the following year, and the brothers split up to follow separate interests.
Henry Ford and Mass Production
Several small automobile manufacturers were making cars in the early 1900s, but American Henry Ford helped popularize the idea that anyone could own a car. Ford successfully challenged the Selden patent in court, opening the door for increased automobile manufacturing. Ford achieved initial success by making cars in large quantities to reduce costs and by making them simple enough so many consumers could easily operate them. Ford standardized parts and reorganized factory production to maximize efficiency.
Ford made the sturdy, black Model T using mass production, the most economical way to make the maximum number of similar copies of the car. He understood that efficient mass production would lower car prices, making cars affordable for the average person, thus generating a huge market. From 1910 to 1924, Ford cars decreased steadily in price as they improved in quality. The Ford Model F in 1904 weighed 630 kg (1,400 lb), had a two-cylinder motor, and sold for $1,200. By 1924 the Ford Model T touring car was heavier at 680 kg (1,500 lb), had a more powerful four-cylinder motor, and included a top and windshield—yet it sold for only $290. Ford made only minor changes to the Model T for nearly two decades, and more than half of the cars sold in the United States were Model Ts during many of those years.
Other Automakers
While Ford was perfecting his Model T, William C. Durant established the General Motors Corporation (GM) in 1908. Durant combined the Buick, Oldsmobile, and Oakland companies, and later Cadillac, to form GM. The firm started by Louis Chevrolet was added in 1918. General Motors weathered numerous financial crises in its early years, finally gaining stability when the du Pont family bought much GM stock (since divested) in 1920. The invention by Charles Franklin Kettering of the electric self-starter in 1912 was a benchmark in U.S. automotive development, but others quickly followed, including balloon tires in 1921. Among other U.S. automotive pioneers were brothers John and Horace Dodge, machinists and bicycle builders after whom the Dodge car is named, and Walter Percy Chrysler, a railroad worker who later formed Chrysler Corporation. Ford, GM, and Chrysler, known as the Big Three, eventually became the dominant automakers in America.
In 1914 Ford announced a generous, unprecedented $5 per day wage for workers who were with the company more than six months, doubling the previous wage. He wanted workers to be able to afford the cars they made, but he also wanted to stabilize his workforce, which had high turnover due to the repetition of assembly-line work. U.S. assembly line production satisfied the huge American market for vehicles and allowed American carmakers to dominate early auto manufacturing. By 1916 annual U.S. auto production reached one million units, a level not reached by any other country until England about 40 years later.
By 1920 Ford's success in building an inexpensive, durable car had produced a large secondhand car market, which meant that new Fords had to compete with old Fords. In the late 1920s and early 1930s General Motors Chairman Alfred Pritchard Sloan, Jr., decided to follow a different strategy. He implemented the annual model and offered different lines of cars at different prices, creating a ladder of consumption that consumers could climb. These concepts helped GM challenge the dominance of Ford. In 1924 GM had about 19 percent of U.S. new-car sales, and Ford had just over 50 percent. Just two years later GM cut Ford’s lead down to 35 percent and raised GM’s market share to 28 percent.
European and Japanese automakers were also growing in this new industry. In 1914 the company that later became Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., completed its first car in Japan. Fiat produced automobiles in Italy, and Daimler and Benz merged together in 1926 to begin production of the Mercedes-Benz line of automobiles. In 1928 the German manufacturer Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW), also known as Bavarian Motor Works, began building automobiles.
The Great Depression of the 1930s
Numerous automobile manufacturers, both big and small, existed during the early years of the industry, but increased competition began to reduce the number of companies. The economic depression in the United States following the 1929 stock market crash brought even more consolidation and competition to the auto industry. Many carmakers, such as Duesenberg with its stylish models, disappeared during the depression. Consolidation and sheer size, as well as innovation, helped the Big Three automakers survive. Thinking that farmers might gain by producing crops that could be turned into fuel or raw materials, Ford built a soybean processing plant. Soon two pounds of every Ford were made from soy products. General Motors survived and thrived with the standard volume concept, a financial strategy that has endured. GM set its prices to produce a 20 percent return on investment based on what it sold in an average year. Profits soared when sales were above average, and GM would still profit during leaner years.
Labor Unions and Strikes
Some discontented workers cautiously organized into labor unions during the depression in order to improve working conditions and increase pay. By 1936 the United Automobile Workers (UAW) planned to stop work at General Motors. Workers at a GM plant in Cleveland were angered when the plant manager refused to discuss reductions in the piece work rate, and they started one of the first so-called sit-down strike in history, where workers sat down at their posts and refused to leave until their demands were met. The six-week strike involved fewer than 2,000 workers, but it affected more than 150,000 other workers in different production areas. The contract negotiated between management and labor representatives helped boost the reputation of the UAW, although actual concessions gained in the contract were minimal.
Wartime Production
World War II (1939-1945) had a drastic effect on automobile manufacturing in the United States. After 12 years of depression, high unemployment, and labor strife, America was attacked by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Consequently, the United States entered World War II. Two months later, the last passenger car for the duration of the war rolled off the line. The automobile industry was converted to wartime production. Chrysler Corporation mass-produced tanks, and numerous carmakers built trucks for the military. GM built shells, bombs, fuses, navigation equipment, machine guns, artillery, and antiaircraft guns, in addition to engines and vehicles. Ford mass-produced bomber aircraft. The automakers more than doubled their productive capacity during the war, and women and minorities made up a significant portion of new workers.
Postwar Production
Passenger car production resumed after World War II with 1946 models. U.S. automakers had trouble meeting the pent-up demand. Suburbs sprouted up and a nationwide system of interstate highways was planned. In 1949 new-car sales of more than 4.8 million in the United States finally topped the old record set in precrash 1929 by almost 1 million units. By 1955 sales approached 7.2 million.
While large companies enjoyed success, smaller automobile companies and newcomers found it increasingly difficult to compete against the expensive annual model changeovers offered by existing manufacturers. In 1947 and 1948 American automobile pioneer Preston Tucker began production of his Tucker Torpedo, which featured a Cyclops-like, centered headlamp that turned with the front wheels. The design was good, but as a low-volume manufacturer, Tucker ran into production problems, and his company collapsed after managing to make only about 50 cars.
In the 1950s American automobiles increased in size and sported decorative features such as tail fins. GM built a strong sales lead during the 1950s when its cars included tail fins, automatic transmissions, and high-compression V-8 engines. However, by the end of the decade consumers began desiring smaller cars, and average sizes began to decrease.
Automobile Safety
In the early 1960s the Big Three American automakers rolled out compact cars, including the unconventional Chevrolet Corvair, with an air-cooled six-cylinder rear engine. Because of the rear engine placement, the car tended to oversteer, or turn more sharply at higher speeds. In high-speed turns, the rear end tended to lift, and the first prototype flipped over on the test track. More than one million Corvairs had been sold before corrections could be made. American lawyer Ralph Nader publicized the defects of the Corvair and condemned the auto industry in his book Unsafe at Any Speed (1965; revised edition, 1972), though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would later declare the car as safe as other contemporary vehicles. Automakers responded by improving structural safety and adding features such as seat belts, collapsible steering columns, and safety windshields in their cars.
Foreign Imports and the Energy Crisis
Europe and Japan had been busy reconstructing their manufacturing capacity in the years following World War II, and their smaller, more fuel-efficient automobiles became popular with the American consumer. Volkswagen AG began importing its Beetle to the United States in the early 1950s. Sales were slow at first but steadily improved. Early Japanese imports such as the Toyopet, manufactured by Toyota Motor Corporation, and the Nissan Datsun were introduced into the United States in 1958; but sales initially suffered because there was no sound dealer network to service them. Moreover, the American public, raised on large U.S. cars, viewed the smaller autos as second-rate. As Volkswagen sales boomed during the 1960s, partly due to clever advertising, the Japanese imports also grew in popularity. Toyota and Nissan eventually passed Volkswagen in sales in the United States in 1975 and 1976.
Imported cars, with their lower price and better fuel efficiency, became very popular in the 1970s, due in part to the rising cost of gasoline. In 1973 and again in 1979, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cut off the supply of oil to the United States (see World Energy Supply: The Energy Crisis). In an effort to conserve energy, the U.S. government began setting fuel economy standards, but these often conflicted with the air pollution and safety standards it set in the 1970 Clean Air Act. As American automakers struggled to meet these new demands, Japanese imports skyrocketed. Japanese automakers, such as Toyota, Nissan, and the relative newcomer Honda Motor Co. Ltd., also had the advantage of better industry-government collaboration, newer factories, and a comparatively cheaper, more disciplined labor force. By the end of the 1970s, Japanese automakers were selling 2.5 million cars a year in the United States, which amounted to about one of every four units sold.
U.S. automakers responded to Japanese competition by retooling their factories to build smaller cars. They adopted successful Japanese methods, known collectively as lean production. Examples of this method of production include increased automation, quality control (workers could stop the line to correct a problem, rather than marking it for future correction), and smaller, so-called just-in-time inventories (parts were delivered to workers on the line as they were needed, rather than in large, bulky quantities).
Auto companies responded to the fuel-consumption and air-quality demands by using previously developed innovations. Diesel engines, catalytic converters, electronic fuel injection, turbochargers, high-strength steels, aerodynamic bodies, front-wheel drive, and other technologies were introduced to cut operating costs.
The 1980s and 1990s
Revenues for U.S. automakers declined during the late 1970s and early 1980s as the companies retooled to produce smaller cars, and Chrysler in particular was on the verge of bankruptcy. Ford executive Lee Iacocca moved to Chrysler and rescued it by changing the product line and winning loan guarantees from Congress in 1980. The loans were eventually repaid (seven years early), and Chrysler survived.
Japanese automakers shifted their emphasis in the late 1980s to luxury automobiles, which competed directly against established American and German luxury cars. Honda started its Acura division, while Nissan introduced the Infiniti line and Toyota began producing its Lexus brand of cars. These luxury automobile entries presented significant challenges to existing luxury automakers, such as BMW and Mercedes. Both companies took financial losses as a result, but they have since rebounded.
Industry developments of the late 1990s focused on joint international ventures among the strongest companies and global expansion into new markets. Globalization has made it increasingly difficult to identify an automobile as the product of one company or country. General Motors, for example, allied with Suzuki and Isuzu in Japan to sell several products internationally under GM nameplates. In 1998 Daimler-Benz AG merged with Chrysler Corporation but announced it would maintain Mercedes and Chrysler as separate brands. Ford acquired the automobile division of Swedish vehicle maker Volvo in 1999. A year later GM announced it would purchase a 20-percent stake in Italian carmaker Fiat, which also manufactures cars under the Ferrari, Lancia, and Maserati brands.
The Early 21st Century
As the 21st century began, foreign carmakers continued to make inroads in the worldwide and North American markets. In 2000 foreign manufacturers outsold U.S. companies in worldwide automobile sales, although sales of light trucks, including sport utility vehicles (SUVs), kept U.S. companies dominant in total sales of vehicles.
In July 2007 foreign automakers outperformed U.S. companies in the U.S. market for the first time ever. And in the first quarter of 2007, GM for the first time lost its dominance in the worldwide market to Toyota. Toyota sold 2.35 million vehicles during that period compared with GM’s 2.26 million vehicles. Toyota was expected to overtake GM as the world’s largest car and light truck maker by the end of the year.
U.S. automakers continued to close plants in the United States and lay off workers, while foreign car companies continued to open plants in the United States. The domestic U.S. car industry also suffered a setback when the European carmaker Daimler AG decided to divest itself of its Chrysler unit, selling it to a private equity firm. Chrysler became the first U.S. automaker to be privately owned.
At the start of the 21st century, the trends of global trade and manufacturing flexibility continue. Computerization continues to be a major part of auto design and manufacture, as do the search for alternative fuels and more efficient automobile designs.
Computer-aided design tools are already used in the automobile industry and will continue to save months of design time and improve the quality of cars. In 1997 Chrysler designed its first paperless cars (1998 and 1999 full-size sedans) using digital model assembly. In the foreseeable future, the design engineer's computer-aided design might guide computer-controlled machinery and reduce the need for blueprints. See also Computer-Aided Design/Computer-Aided Manufacture.
Microelectronics will be more fully applied to future automobiles and may become as commonplace as radios are today. On-board systems are becoming available that enable drivers to find destinations through voice-activated navigation or make cellular calls using the computer. These computers can access the Global Positioning System (GPS) and display maps to help drivers avoid congested freeways and find better routes to destinations. See also Intelligent Transportation Systems.
Alternative Fuel Research
Alternative energy sources for cars, such as natural gas, electricity, ethanol, vegetable oil, sunlight, and water, will vie for consumer use in the future. The Clean Air Act of 1990 and the National Energy Policy Act of 1992 created significant new market opportunities for alternative fuels by requiring government vehicles to use cleaner fuels.
Many vehicle manufacturers now convert existing vehicles or offer factory-built natural gas vehicles (NGV) that burn natural gas and cost less to run than conventionally fueled vehicles do. In many countries, natural gas is cheaper and more available, so NGVs could become popular in the future.
Corn-based gasohol (a combination of unleaded gasoline and ethanol made from corn) reduces fossil energy use by 50 to 60 percent and pollution by 35 to 46 percent. More than 11 percent of all automotive fuels sold in the United States are ethanol-blended, and that percentage may increase in the future. Agricultural sources of fuel have interested carmakers for decades. In 1997 the Veggie Van, a small motor home powered by a diesel motor that runs on a fuel made from used and new vegetable oil (called biodiesel), took a 16,000 km (10,000 mi) journey. The Veggie Van reached speeds up to 105 km/h (65 mph) and achieved a gas mileage of 10.5 km per liter (25 mi per gallon). Some fuel for the Veggie Van was made from used restaurant fryer oil, and its exhaust smelled like french fries.
Many large automakers are now adapting fuel cell technology for automobiles. Fuel cells are cleaner, quieter, and more energy efficient than internal-combustion engines. Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen electrochemically without combustion to supply electricity. Fuel cell engines will likely run on conventional gasoline, but with a fraction of the emissions of a normal engine. The Ford Motor Company announced in December 1997 that it was investing $420 million in fuel cell research.
From 1995 to 1997 Mazda Motor Corporation experimented with a low-pollution hydrogen rotary engine vehicle, which burns hydrogen fuel that will not emit carbon dioxide. Japan reportedly aims to have a hydrogen fuel distribution network in place to support that fuel’s use in transportation by 2010. Scientists are also trying to reduce emissions of existing vehicles and are testing a device that uses electrons to nullify the noxious components of diesel exhaust.
Electric cars, powered by an electric motor and batteries, provide drivers with another alternative. To recharge the batteries, operators plug the car into a 120-volt or 240-volt outlet. A typical electric car averages 60 to 200 km (40 to 100 mi) per charge. Since most car trips are less than 120 km (75 mi), electric cars can help meet the needs of many two- or three-car families. In 1996 GM debuted the EV1, an emission-free electric car that seats two. The EV1 has been slow to catch on, however. Its batteries run out frequently and require several hours to recharge. Moreover, pioneering electric technology makes the EV1 expensive, especially when compared with conventional gasoline-powered cars of comparable size.
Hybrid automobiles combine an electric motor with batteries that are recharged by a small gas- or diesel-powered engine. By relying more on electricity and less on fuel combustion, hybrids have higher fuel efficiency and fewer toxic emissions. Several automakers have experimented with hybrids, and in 1997 the Toyota Motor Corporation became the first to mass-produce a hybrid vehicle. The first hybrid available for sale in North America was offered by Honda Motor Company in 1999. In 2004 the Ford Motor Company became the first U.S. automaker to produce a hybrid vehicle. The Ford Escape Hybrid, introduced for the 2005 model year, was both the first hybrid made in the United States and the first hybrid sport-utility vehicle (SUV).
Materials and Safety
Future vehicles will likely be made of different materials. For example, improved plastics or composites will reduce car weight, provide fuel economy, allow for smoother surfaces and more complex shapes, and better manage crash energy. As fuel costs increase and the cost of composite body construction decreases, widespread use of plastics could follow. Ceramics, which cut weight and thus improve fuel economy, will increase operating efficiency in applications such as pistons and turbocharger rotors.
Safety will continue to be a concern for automakers. Airbags have saved numerous lives, but they have also been responsible for injuries and deaths of small children, due to the forceful action of the airbags when they inflate. New rules from the U.S. Department of Transportation in 1997 allowed some consumers to remove the airbags or to disable them when small children are riding in front passenger seats. Another point of controversy concerns the recent popularity of large sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks. When an ordinary car collides with a truck or SUV, studies show that the car passengers are much more likely to suffer injury or death than are the occupants of the larger vehicles. SUVs and trucks are heavier and higher off the ground than ordinary cars and frequently run over the bumpers of ordinary cars during collisions. Industry representatives, government agencies, and insurance groups are currently working on these problems to create practical solutions and increase safety on the road.
The auto industry of the future will be characterized by vanishing boundaries: between countries and companies, between suppliers and manufacturers, between engineering fields, between departments (that is, marketing, design, and finance), between labor and management, and between automotive and consumer electronics. Companies that rapidly adapt to unpredictable and dynamic events will prevail.