The Automobile

Who invented the automobile? I thought Henry Ford did but my brother claims that it was invented by someone in Europe. I have a $20 bet that Ford is the main person responsible for the car.

- Dan L., Los Angeles, CA

Henry Ford

Henry Ford is often given credit for inventing the automobile. However, although he revolutionized the mass production of the automobile, credit must be given to several Europeans who actually invented the key parts of the automobile that allowed the automobile to operate.

Nicolas Joseph Cugnot

In 1771, Nicolas Joseph Cugnot, a Frenchman, invented a three-wheeled, steam powered, 2.3 mph vehicle for the French Minister of War. However, it was much too slow and hard to operate and was discontinued.

Amedee Bollee

Amedee Bollee, another Frenchman, invented a twelve passenger, steam propelled passenger wagon in 1873. Overly cumbersome and difficult to operate, the machine could not effectively compete with horse drawn buggies.

Breakthroughs in the Automobile

The breakthrough in the development of the automobile came in 1889. Germans Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach designed and built a vehicle powered by a 1.5 hp, two-cylinder gasoline engine that allowed the vehicle to travel at 10 mph. Another German, Karl Benz, also built a working, gasoline powered motor car. With the successful development of the gas powered combustible engine, automobiles began to be taken seriously.

In 1901, American Ransom Olds produced the 1901 Curved Dash Oldsmobile, the first car to be produced in quantity.

Automobile Mass Production

Modern automobile mass production was indeed developed and implemented by American Henry Ford of Detroit , Michigan. Ford built his first gasoline powered vehicle in 1896 and began mass production of his Model T auto in 1908. Ford produced more than 18 million Model Ts.