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Automobile Chronology


While the automobile emerged and evolved, the world at large underwent major events, from technological advances to world wars to space exploration.

Automobile Chronology
Date
Contemporary Events
Karl Benz creates the world’s first practical automobile powered by an internal combustion engine.
1885
 
Motor Wagons becomes the first American automobile manufacturer.
1896
 
Only 1 in 9,500 Americans own a car; 22% of these cars run on an internal combustion engine. The remaining vehicles run on steam or electricity. A new car costs approximately $2,000.
1900
 
Horatio Nelson Jackson takes 65 days to make the first transcontinental car journey.
1903
The Wright brothers invent the first powered flight airplane.
The first transatlantic telegraph cable is laid.
The first wireless radio signals are transmitted across the Atlantic.
The U.S. surpasses France as the world’s number one automobile manufacturer.
1904
 
Henry Ford improves the assembly line, making automobile production faster and cheaper.
1908
 
The first Indianapolis 500 road race.
1911
Roald Amundsen reaches the South Pole by dog sled.
The Model T dominates the car market.
1912
The Titanic sinks on its maiden voyage.
 
1914
World War I begins.
 
1917
Workers complete the trans-Siberian railroad in Russia.
The first tri-colored stop light appears in Detroit, Michigan.
1918
 
 
1919
World War I ends.
The Lincoln Highway—connecting San Francisco to New York— becomes the first fully paved road to span the continent.
1923
 
The first rental car company opens.
1923
 
One in seven Americans owns a car.
1924
 
 
1927
Charles Lindbergh becomes the first person to cross the Atlantic in an airplane.
 
1929
The stock market crashes and the Great Depression begins.
 
1933
President Franklin Roosevelt launches the New Deal.
The first drive-in movie theater opens.
The first freeways, known as autobahns, open in Germany.
1934
 
The first parking meters appear in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
1935
 
 
1939
World War II begins.
Civilian car production halts as World War II rages.
1942-
1945
 
 
1945
World War II ends.
The first air conditioning units appear in cars.
1953
 
Congress passes the Interstate Highway Act, enabling the creation of a superhighway system connecting all major U.S. locations.
1956
Transatlantic cable telephone service is established.
One in three Americans owns a car.
1960
 
The child car seat with safety belt is introduced.
1962
John Glenn becomes first American to orbit the earth.
Front safety belts become standard.
1963
 
The Vehicle Air Pollution and Control Act passes Congress, regulating auto emissions.
1965
 
 
1969
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon.
The American auto industry starts to decline because of cheaper foreign car imports and economic woes across the country. The U.S government grants loans to keep some American car manufacturers from declaring bankruptcy.
1970s
 
 
1973
The Arab Oil Embargo begins.
Japan emerges as the new world leader in automobile production.
1980
 
 
1981
The first space shuttle, “Columbia,” launches into space.
MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is founded with a mission to combat drunken driving.
1982
 
New York passes the first law requiring the use of safety belts for all passengers.
1984
 
 
1986
The Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster occurs.
Chrysler buys American Motors.
1987
 
 
1991
Gorbachev resigns and the Cold War comes to an end.
Electric vehicles reappear in auto show rooms after being absent from the market for nearly 90 years.
1996
 
 
1997
Sound barrier broken on land.
The National Automobile Dealer’s Association puts the average new car price at $23,480.
1998
 
 
1999
The first non-stop balloon trip around the world completed.
Hybrid vehicles appear for widespread sale in the U.S.
2000
The International Space Station is launched.
Automobile manufacturers announce plans to release hybrid SUVs, mid-size sedans and luxury cars. The United States average for car ownership per family is 1.7 vehicles per household.
2002