A Student’s History Guide: Who Invented the Automobile?

The automobile has a long history starting with the famous artist and inventor, Leonardo Da Vinci, who designed the first self-powered car in 1478. It would be close to three hundred years later that Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot designed and built the first steam-powered vehicle, a military tractor in 1769. Following on the heels of Cugnot’s invention, Scotsman Robert Anderson built the first electric vehicle between 1832 and 1839. However, it was Karl Benz in 1885/86 forever known as the inventor of the first gasoline-powered engine. Gottleib Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach followed on the heels of Benz’s engine with a four-stroke engine and joined with Benz to form Daimler-Benz AG, which later would become Mercedes Benz. Contrary to popular belief, Ford did not bring the car to America; Charles Duryea and his brother Frank would have that honor when they opened up the first manufacturing company in America. They built the “horseless carriage” with a four horsepower, two-stroke engine in 1893 and started manufacturing in 1896.

Ransom E. Olds began General Motors in 1897 and produced 425 cars in 1901. Olds was the first to use the assembly line process to manufacture cars before Ford built his plants and assembly line, though Henry Ford is the one credited with this development. After designing his own “Quadricycle,” which later failed, Henry Ford, with backing from investors, created the Ford Motor Company in 1903. By 1908, Ford made inexpensive cars available to the American public. It was Ford’s innovation and development of the “moving” assembly line process that made the Model T available to the American public en masse. Besides being easy to drive, the Model T was inexpensive to buy and repair. By 1914, sales had surpassed 250,000 vehicles.

Automobile History

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