Automobiles are vehicles that are powered by an internal combustion engine and propelled by one or more wheels. Automobiles are capable of transporting a large number of people, allowing them to travel long distances in a relatively short period of time. The invention of automobiles has opened up a world of possibilities that were previously unimaginable. People can now work in cities and live in the countryside, or travel across continents. The automobile has also stimulated participation in outdoor recreational activities and the growth of tourism-related industries, such as motels and service stations. It has ended rural isolation and brought urban amenities, including medical care and schools, to many once remote areas. It has also made it possible for urban dwellers to travel to rural areas to escape the bustle of city life, and for country residents to visit their metropolitan cousins.

The earliest automobiles were perfected in Germany and France toward the end of the nineteenth century by such men as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz, and Nicolaus Otto. By the early 1900s, the United States had taken the lead in automotive production. Henry Ford innovated mass-production techniques with his Model T and revolutionized the industry. By 1920, Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler dominated the American market. The heavy outlay of capital and increased volume of sales that this required ended the era of easy entry into the automobile business for hundreds of small producers, most of which failed to survive into the 1930s.