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AUTOMOBILING—BY THE DECADES

IHS MARKIT SPECIALIZES in information and analytics of many categories, including the automobile industry. A recent Automotive News includes a 14-page insert from IHS Markit that identifies key elements in the past 100 years of the automobile. 

This and following images from 100: Recognizing 100 Years of Providing Automotive Insights powered by Polk Data, IHS Markit, 2020.

The IHS Markit choices make for an intriguing collection of tidbits, even if I don’t agree with them all in detail. Here they are, decade by decade.

The 1920s. IHS Markit writes, “More than one million Model T’s had rolled off the assembly line, a mere decade after its introduction.” 

The Ford Model T’s introductory year was 1908, more than a decade before the 1920s. Indeed, the years 1913-1914 were pivotal for the Model T: As noted by History, “On December 1, 1913, Henry Ford installs the first moving assembly line for the mass production of an entire automobile.” Production time of a Model T had been 12 1/2 hours; by 1914, it dropped to 93 minutes. In 1914, Ford produced more automobiles than all other automakers combined. A typical Model T four-seat Tourer cost $550, around $14,300 in today’s dollar.

The Model T assembly line. Image from media.ford.com.

Common people aspired to Model T ownership. Beginning in January of 1914, Ford raised the pay of his assembly-line workers to $5/day, double the usual wage. To put this $5/day in perspective, it works out to $129.96/day, $16.25/hour, in today’s dollar.

The Ford Model T well represents the 1920s. It continued in production until May 26, 1927.

The 1930s. IHS Markit writes, “Cars sported multiple spare tires. Pneumatic tires improved the comfort and ride of vehicles, but still required 1, 2, or even 3 spare tires to support reliability.” 

IHS Markit cites run-flat, sealant kits, self-sealing and airless tires as game changers in today’s tire technology.

The 1940s. IHS Markit observes, “Headlights became part of the vehicle design and turn signals were introduced.” 

Illustration by Rayburn.

“Trafficators,” often mounted in door pillars, were mechanical or pneumatic precursors, appearing as early as 1908. They remained endearing elements of many English cars into the 1950s.

The 1950s. IHS Markit cites, “The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 paved the way for the Interstate Highway System, enabling trucks to more easily traverse long distances.” 

My choice for the 1950s would been the evolving exuberance of car styling. Fins and other automotive extravagances were in. 

The 1960s. IHS Markit notes, “Seatbelts became mandatory on all new vehicles (except buses) produced in the United States.”

 A related tidbit: Wikipedia notes, “After the Saab GT 750 was introduced at the New York Auto Show [1958] with safety belts fitted as standard, the practice became commonplace. Seatbelts were not popular at first, with only 2 percent of Ford buyers choosing to pay for a seatbelt in 1956.”

The 1970s. IHS Markit celebrates, “ ‘Muscle cars’ reached their peak. These cars were featured on TV shows like the Dukes of Hazzard and movies like Smokey and the Bandit.”

IHS Markit now forecasts “future powertrains, from traditional internal combustion engines to battery and [Toyota Mirai] fuel-cell electric vehicles.”

The 1980s. IHS Markit observes, “In 1981, vehicle identification numbers (VIN) became standard in the United States. Affixed to every car, truck, or trailer, no two vehicles built within 30 years of each other can have the same VIN.”

Have I ever told you that our Miata’s VIN ends in 00348? It’s hard to work this into conversation, but it can be done.

The 1990s. IHS Markit cites “Traditional internal combustion engines saw the first real challenge in 90 years with the launch of the Toyota Prius, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid-electric vehicle.”

Indeed, in the earliest decades of the automobile, 1890-1910, there was a good contest of gasoline, steam, and electric propulsion. Gasoline won; albeit, in the long term, only temporarily.”

The 2000s. IHS Markit notes, “A new electric vehicle automaker emerged on the scene, rejecting the traditional concept of dealerships. In addition, the Internet changed how people shopped for cars.”

IHS Markit chose not to mention the automaker’s name: Tesla

The 2010s. IHS Markit writes, “In 2015, SUVs surpassed sedans in vehicle sales in the United States, and they haven’t looked back. In 2019, SUVs outnumbered sedan new car sales by more than 2:1.”

The 2020s. IHS Markit concludes, “The automotive ecosystem is on a precipice of change.”

As is the U.S. and the entire world. ds 

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