By the early 1900s, gasoline
cars started to outsell all other types of motor vehicles. The market
was growing for economical automobiles and the need for industrial production
The first car manufacturers in the
world were French: Panhard & Levassor (1889) and Peugeot (1891). By
car manufacturer we mean builders of entire motor vehicles for sale and
not just engine inventors who experimented with car design to test their
engines - Daimler and Benz
began as the latter before becoming full car manufacturers and made their
early money by licensing their patents and selling their engines to car
and Emile Levassor
Rene Panhard and Emile Levassor
were partners in a woodworking machinery business, when they decided to
become car manufacturers. They built their first car in 1890 using a Daimler
engine. Edouard Sarazin, who held the license rights to the Daimler patent
for France, commissioned the team. (Licensing a patent means that you pay
a fee and then you have the right to build and use someone's invention
for profit - in this case Sarazin had the right to build and sell Daimler
engines in France.) The partners not only manufactured cars, they made
improvements to the automotive body design.
Panhard-Levassor made vehicles with
a pedal-operated clutch, a chain transmission leading to a change-speed
gearbox, and a front radiator. Levassor was the first designer to move
the engine to the front of the car and use a rear-wheel drive layout. This
design was known as the Systeme Panhard and quickly became the standard
for all cars because it gave a better balance and improved steering. Panhard
and Levassor are also credited with the invention of the modern transmission
- installed in their 1895 Panhard.
Panhard and Levassor also shared
the licensing rights to Daimler motors with Armand Peugot. A Peugot car
went on to win the first car race held in France, which gained Peugot publicity
and boosted car sales. Ironically, the "Paris to Marseille" race of 1897
resulted in a fatal auto accident, killing Emile Levassor. (Learn more
about Panhard and Levassor)
Early on, French manufacturers did
not standardize car models - each car was different from the other. The
first standardized car was the 1894, Benz Velo. One hundred and thirty
four identical Velos were manufactured in 1895.
and Frank Duryea
America's first gasoline-powered
commercial car manufacturers were Charles and Frank Duryea. The brothers
were bicycle makers who became interested in gasoline engines and automobiles
and built their first motor vehicle in 1893, in Springfield, Massachusetts.
By 1896, the Duryea Motor Wagon Company had sold thirteen models of the
Duryea, an expensive limousine, which remained in production into the 1920s.
(Learn more about
Charles and Frank
The first automobile to be mass
produced in the United States was the 1901, Curved Dash Oldsmobile, built
by the American car manufacturer Ransome Eli Olds (1864-1950). Olds invented
the basic concept of the assembly line and started the Detroit area automobile
industry. He first began making steam and gasoline engines with his father,
Pliny Fisk Olds, in Lansing, Michigan in 1885. Olds designed his first
steam-powered car in 1887. In 1899, with a growing experience of gasoline
engines, Olds moved to Detroit to start the Olds Motor Works, and produce
low-priced cars. He produced 425 "Curved Dash Olds" in 1901, and was America's
leading auto manufacturer from 1901 to 1904.
American car manufacturer, Henry
Ford (1863-1947) invented an improved assembly line and installed the first
conveyor belt-based assembly line in his car factory in Ford's Highland
Park, Michigan plant, around 1913-14. The assembly line reduced production
costs for cars by reducing assembly time. Ford's famous Model T was assembled
in ninety-three minutes. Ford made his first car, called the "Quadricycle,"
in June, 1896. However, success came after he formed the Ford Motor Company
in 1903. This was the third car manufacturing company formed to produce
the cars he designed. He introduced the Model T in 1908 and it was a success.
After installing the moving assembly lines in his factory in 1913,
Ford became the world's biggest car manufacturer. By 1927, 15 million Model
Ts had been manufactured.
Another victory won by Henry Ford
was patent battle with George B. Selden.
Selden, who had never built an automobile, held a patent on a "road engine",
on that basis Selden was paid royalties by all American car manufacturers.
Ford overturned Selden's patent and opened the American car market for
the building of inexpensive cars. (Learn more about Henry
> History of Cars