Automobiles are vehicles that carry people and are designed primarily to travel on roads. They are typically powered by an internal combustion engine that burns a volatile fuel, such as gasoline. They also may be propelled by electric power, and there are special cars for some purposes, such as crane vehicles on construction sites or forklifts in warehouses. The automobile has had a significant impact on society, providing increased access to jobs, goods and services. It has stimulated the development of ancillary industries like building and maintaining highways, developing automotive parts and providing services like gas stations, hotels and motels. The automobile has also spawned new leisure activities and altered consumer habits.
The first modern motorcar was invented in the late 1800s and perfected in Germany and France by engineers such as Gottlieb Daimler, Karl Benz and Wilhelm Maybach. However, by 1920 American businessman Henry Ford had introduced innovations in manufacturing that allowed him to mass-produce automobiles at affordable prices. This opened the market to middle-class families, and Ford, General Motors and Chrysler soon dominated the industry. The automobile fueled the rise of a consumer-oriented economy, and it contributed to social change by providing individuals with more freedom and choice. However, the automobile has also had some negative effects, such as contributing to air pollution and requiring a substantial investment in time and money for maintenance and repairs. Despite its disadvantages, the automobile continues to play an important role in our daily lives.