Though Americans swiftly overtook the Germans and French in the first half of the 20th century to dominate the automotive industry, the vehicle was initially developed and refined in Germany and France in the late 1800s.
By the 1920s, Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler had established themselves as the "Big Three" automakers thanks to Henry Ford's innovations in mass production methods that later became industry norms.
During World War II, manufacturers diverted their resources to the military; as a result, automotive production in Europe and Japan surged to keep up with demand.
By 1980, Japan had overtaken Europe as the world's top automaker, and the industry that had once been essential to the growth of American metropolitan centers had evolved into a shared global endeavor.
The automobile was primarily developed in Germany and France around the end of the nineteenth century by people like Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz, Nicolaus Otto, and Emile Levassor, yet it would have its greatest social and economic impact in the United States.
The 1901 Mercedes, created by Wilhelm Maybach for the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, is recognized as the first functionally complete modern motorcar.
Its 35 horsepower engine was lightweight, weighing only 14 pounds per horsepower, and it had a top speed of 53 mph. With the most integrated auto factory in Europe by 1909, Daimler employed about 1 700 people to churn out fewer than a thousand vehicles annually.