If you are now in middle age, the chance is good that your grandparents were born before the automobile worked its enormous change on American life. In about three generations electrical power, the telephone, radio, TV, airplanes, computers, even space travel, have changed the way we live beyond recognition. But no invention has changed our day-to-day life quite so much as the automobile.
Its change is so pervasive it is hard to grasp.
Many of the names of those earliest automotive pioneers are still around on car nameplates -- Henry Ford, David Buick, Ransom E. Olds, Louis Chevrolet, John and Horace Dodge, Walter P. Chrysler here in the United States; Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz and Adam Opel in Germany; Armond Peugeot, Louis Renault and Andre Citroen in France and in Great Britain, C.S. Rolls and Henry Royce.
Many more have had their day of glory and passed on as the auto industry whittled down the thousands of makers who have entered the game into the highly concentrated world industry that exists today.
A lot has happened since Karl Benz got that first car working well enough to put it into production. But it has not really been a very long time.
Grandpa can remember when the world was a lot different.
Copyright 1996, Richard A. Wright
Published by Wayne State University's Department of Communications