The Automobile: A Major Impact on America’s Culture and Economy

When the auto industry began in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century, no one could foresee the tremendous impact it would have on our culture and economy. More than one in seven jobs in the U.S. is directly related to the manufacture, sales, servicing and support of autos and vehicular transportation. For decades, the U.S. was the world leader in manufacturing of automobiles, setting trends and standards. However, Japan overtook the lead for production of vehicles in the 1980s, and China assumed the title in 2008. The number of autos produced in the U.S. annually still leaves it in a strong second place, with production totaling between 8 and 10 million.


As with many industries, the auto industry started off with hundreds of different players, but it was dominated by just three major companies by the end of the 1920s. When the dramatic increases in oil prices started in the 70s, the industry faced a major challenge. Foreign competitors entered the U.S. market and, as recently as 2008-2009, the big manufacturers faced major economic challenges. In fact, the bankruptcy of General Motors stands as one of the biggest business stories of the past century.

Auto manufacturers depend on dealerships as their primary retail sales outlet. While owning a dealership was a sure path to wealth in the early twentieth century, there has been a continual evolution of how these dealerships are started, bought and sold. In fact, there is a major industry that just focuses on dealership sales and purchases. These include such firms as Performance Brokerage Services,, where individuals and companies can learn about the opportunities and challenges of owning an auto dealership.

As the industry continues to evolve, many startups in the electrical car segment are exploring alternate distribution methods. Also, the Internet has played and is playing a significant role in reshaping the industry. For the present time, however, it is the auto dealership that serves the industry as the primary means of displaying and selling new automobiles. As of 2012, there were approximately 17,500 new car dealers operating in the country, down from a total of more than 45,000 in 1947.

Of course, new car sales have fueled the creation of another auto sales industry, that of used car sales. While virtually all new car dealerships sell used cars, there are many independent lots who focus on just this market segment. As of 2012, there were more than 120,000 listed used car sales lots. 

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