The Big Three of the U.S. Auto Industry

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The Big Three of the U.S. Auto Industry

We have a proud car culture in the United States but how much do you actually know about the auto industry as a whole? How did the top car brands get to the top?

How it Started

The American automotive industry began in the 1890s and quickly evolved into the largest automotive industry in the world, thanks to the large size of the domestic market and the use of mass-production. That world title would eventually be taken from the U.S., however; first by Japan in the 1980s and then from Japan by China in 2008.

The U.S. motor vehicle industry started with hundreds of manufacturers, but not all found grand success. By the end of the 1920s, three companies stood apart from the rest: 1) General Motors; 2) Chrysler; and 3) Ford. These three companies prospered, even after the Great Depression and World War II.

The Emergence of the Big Three

Henry Ford began building cars in 1896 and started the Ford-Motor Company in 1903. Ford was the first to use a conveyor belt-based assembly line in 1913, improving mass production of the Model T, thus improving sales. The assembly line decreased costs significantly, which meant the car became more affordable. The Model T sold so well that it launched Ford into the largest automobile company in the U.S.

Next up, we have General Motors, which was founded by William Durant in 1908. In its first couple of years, GM acquired Oldsmobile, Buick, Oakland (later became Pontiac), Cadillac, and various other car companies. Durant also wanted to acquire Ford but Henry Ford wanted to keep his company independent. Having become over-enthusiastic with his acquisitions, Durant over-extended the company and was forced out by a group of banks who took controlling interest. But that didn’t end his role in the automotive industry. Durant joined up with Louis Chevrolet and founded Chevrolet in 1913, which became a quick success. Durant then retook majority control in GM after acquiring enough stock and GM acquired Chevrolet in 1917. Unfortunately, like before, Durant was forced out in 1921. In the late 1920s, GM overtook Ford as the largest automaker.

Finally, we have Chrysler! A former executive of GM and the former president of Buick, Walter Chrysler took control of the Maxwell Motor Company in 1920, revamped it, and reorganized it into Chrysler Corporation in 1925. Chrysler acquired Dodge Brothers in 1927 (did you know Dodge was originally “Dodge Brothers”?) and, in 1928, introduced the DeSoto and Plymouth brands. By the 1930s, Chrysler overtook Ford and became the second largest automaker.

Cars, Cars, and More Cars

By 1950, America produced almost 75 percent of all automobiles in the world! Increased competition from foreign automakers and high oil prices caused problems (especially for the Big Three) at the start of the 1970s, however. In the following years, companies bounced back occasionally but the crisis reached its pinnacle in 2008, prompting General Motors and Chrysler to file for bankruptcy reorganization and to be bailed out by the federal government. Ford was also affected by the crisis, but did not take the easy way out. It decided to power through on its own and did not take the bail out, and we respect Ford greatly for their decision.

Taking Pride in Your Car

No matter what year, make, or model, our cars deserve to be respected and taken care of. The next time your car has a layer of dust, grab your phone and request a Vosh! With our on-demand car wash app, your car will never be neglected again. Download it from the App Store or Google Play:

Publish Date: 02/20/2017
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