2

The Automobile Age

 

Happy Birthday

The centenary of the automobile age should have been commemorated in 2008. The first Model T Ford went on sale on 1 October 1908, a fortnight after the General Motors Company was formed.1 At this time, barely one US family in 40 owned an automobile: the car was essentially a plaything for the rich. Only 18 years later, in 1926, ‘a staggering 19,000,000 of 23,400,000 families owned cars’2 – at least half of them Model T Fords. Henry Ford used mass production to create an affordable, reliable car that could serve both urban and rural markets, and steadily reduced the selling price after introducing the assembly line in 1913. He became America’s richest man.

Ford’s assembly line led to other innovations that ...

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