Table of contents:
- World history has changed the fate of all mankind many times. Wars, inventions, natural disasters - all of this, in one way or another, led our society to what it is today. How did the same events affect the history of the car? Let's say right away - in some cases it is very, very noticeable
World history has changed the fate of all mankind many times. Wars, inventions, natural disasters - all of this, in one way or another, led our society to what it is today. How did the same events affect the history of the car? Let's say right away - in some cases it is very, very noticeable
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This happens - for years, or even decades, technical progress is marking time, and then, under the influence of external factors, it makes a sharp leap forward. We remembered the events that provoked the sharpest of these leaps.
Cancellation of the "Red Flag" rule
It’s hard to believe, but in the second half of the 19th century, humanity (at least the low-progressive part of it) was afraid of cars - about the same as we all are afraid of coronavirus today. Therefore, in Great Britain, for example, back in 1865, the "Red Flag Act" was adopted. He strictly regulated the movement of any horseless carriage: a man with a red flag had to walk in front of the self-propelled carriage, warning everyone of the danger.
It is not hard to understand that, among other inconveniences, the “red flag” rule limited the pace of a car to that of a pedestrian. What kind of technical progress can we talk about in this situation?
Only in 1902, under pressure from the progressive British public, among which was, for example, Henry Royce himself, the archaic law was abolished. There are no obstacles on the road in front of the car and progress, and by the end of the decade, the American fleet alone will overcome the figure of half a million copies.
World War I
War is always a huge tragedy. But not only - almost always a large-scale military conflict becomes a doping for technical progress. This happened in 1914. Cars have not only become an important actor in the global confrontation, but have also opened up new roles for themselves. Four-wheel drive trucks, multi-ton artillery tractors are just a couple of illustrative examples.
It is even more important that when the military fire was extinguished, the capabilities of the defense industry, which suddenly turned out to be unnecessary, were used for peaceful purposes. Yes, the First World War caused the collapse of entire empires and cost humanity tens of millions of ruined lives. But it essentially put post-war Europe on wheels.
Already in March 1919, just four months after the end of the war, the Citroen Type, the first car of the French company, made its debut in Paris. In the huge workshops, where the shells used to be fired, the super-successful industrialist Andre Citroen set up the production of inexpensive cars. If the total production of all French cars in 1913 amounted to 45 thousand units, then in 1920 the circulation of Citroens alone exceeded 20 thousand units. And in another five years, the total production of all French brands will approach 200 thousand.
In 1922, the firm of the British Herbert Austin, which became rich in the production of aircraft, machine guns and anti-aircraft guns, will give the power of the plant in Longbridge for the production of a simple minicar Austin 7, which will become for Europe what the Ford T was for America. The mass trend was picked up by other powerful brands - Peugeot, Opel, Morris, and a little later FIAT - turning the car from a toy for the rich into a commodity of the most widespread consumption.
The Great Depression
The collapse of the American stock market at the turn of the 30s hit hard the economy of the entire country. For the US auto industry - at that time the largest, most influential and powerful in the world - this was a period of purification. Famous brands that had recently bathed in fame and money are now going broke.Between 1929 and 1931, total sales of American stamps fell 75%, and cumulative losses approached $ 200 million (about $ 3 billion at today's exchange rate).
The most painful Great Depression hit the manufacturers of expensive cars. It was during this period that such glorious companies as Pierce Arrow, Cord, Duesenberg and dozens of others went bankrupt. Only the most persistent of the premium brands survived, and democratic brands took the lead. During the Great Depression, the budget segment of the market doubled - from 40 to 80% of the market percent.
Let's not forget the truly massive construction of roads that unfolded in America in the 1930s - after all, it was necessary to occupy thousands of unemployed with something. It was this event that became the most important step in the subsequent motorization of the country. By 1938, 448,000 km of highways and streets had been completed in the United States, and by 1941 the number had doubled. This will become the foundation of the country's automobile boom after World War II …
The Second World War
It was not called the war of motors for nothing. Never before in history has the outcome of a military conflict depended on aircraft, tanks and cars. World War II claimed tens of millions of lives, but presented the world with completely new technologies that will completely change automotive progress.
Space frames, light-alloy materials, gas turbine engines, high-tech systems like fuel injection - all this, having passed the baptism in military aviation, will then turn out to be extremely useful for cars. Let us recall the Daimler-Benz injection engines installed on the Messerschmitt-109 fighters, and a similar power system on the serial Mercedes-Benz 300 SL (W198).
An even more important event is the forced use of synthetic fuels, oils and synthetic rubber for military purposes. All this already in peacetime will lead to noticeable progress in tire technology and lubricants.
And, of course, one cannot pass by such an important car as the Willys MA / MB, which in 1941 became the first mass-produced SUV in the world. Let civilian all-terrain vehicles gain real popularity only half a century after the end of World War II, but the fact that the ideas of military vehicles are embedded in every modern SUV and crossover is beyond doubt.
Publication of the book "Dangerous at any speed"
The young and extremely ambitious lawyer Ralph Nader hardly knew that his book Dangerous at Any Speed, published in the fall of 1965, would receive such a resonance. Fun fact: at the time of publication, Nader did not even know how to drive a car. Nevertheless, he righteously attacked the creators of the Chevrolet Corvair, who built a car that was supposedly unsafe in every sense.
Although it was not true. In general, Nader's book contains many contradictory and controversial points. But everyone decided that there is no smoke without fire: a run over General Motors eventually turned into accusations of the entire auto industry, which criminally paid little attention to safety. And off we go: mandatory seat belts, crash steering columns, head restraints (1966), shockproof bumpers (1972), airbags (1973) …
As much as many would like not to admit it, but the tirelessly increasing level of protection of modern cars is largely due to Ralph Nader.
1973 oil crisis
Many tend to overestimate the magnitude of the first global fuel crisis. Collective OPEC sanctions against the United States and other countries that supported Israel during the so-called "Yom Kippur War" lasted only six months. Yes, during this time the oil price quadrupled, but then rolled back relatively quickly. Whatever the causes and duration of the 1973 crisis, its impact on automotive history cannot be overemphasized.
The world in general, and the United States in particular, quickly realized that a lot of cheap oil is not forever. The car preferences of Americans have only changed forever.Together with expensive and scarce fuel, as well as the ban on the use of leaded gasoline, powerful muscle cars were the first to go to the dustbin of history. They were replaced by hastily developed "economical" models: Ford Pinto, Chevrolet Vega, AMC Gremlin. But buyers, frustrated with low-powered engines and cramped interiors, are moving en masse to pickups and SUVs.
In the wake of the admiration for economy, sales of European and Japanese brands are growing. If in 1972 all imported cars occupied 13% of the American market, then in three years their share will grow to almost 16%. And by 1980, Japanese cars alone will have 27% of the US market. Further even more, and the Detroit troika will forever lose their exclusive position, even at home …
The grips of economy and sustainability are gripping the automotive industry more and more year after year. Average fuel consumption rates among models of the same brand (CAFE standard), environmental standards, progressive taxes on volume and power - the world owes all these "delights" to a tightly sealed oil tap in the fall of 1973 …
Moratorium on car imports to China
An example of how prohibitive measures can also be beneficial. In the fall of 1985, the government of the People's Republic of China introduced a two-year ban on the import of virtually all foreign cars into the country. The Chinese economy needed cars, but spending currency on them was considered a waste.
For foreign brands, this decision was very painful. The demand for cars grew steadily: by 1985, China had become the second largest market for Japanese brands after the United States. And here is such a tough ban, completely contrary to the laws of the free market.
However, the "message" of the Chinese leadership was simple and therefore heard. Anyone who wants to sell cars in China should make them in China. And very soon, European, American and Japanese first-hand companies began to create joint ventures in the PRC. It all started small - the production of outdated models of Peugeot, AMC and Volkswagen, but every year the situation has changed. It became clear that a country with a growing economy and more than a billion people, 99% of whom have never owned a private car, is an opportunity not to be missed. All new world-famous players rushed to China, who were forced to share not only the technologies from the day before yesterday - the transfer of intellectual rights to designs and technologies was also part of the requirements of the Chinese authorities.
In general, already in 1992, the Chinese auto industry for the first time stepped over the figure of a million cars produced. And the number of cars per 1000 people increased from 1.43 in 1990 to 58 in 2010. Today, when China is the main market of the planet, and the annual production of cars here exceeds 30 million units, the benefits of a two-year moratorium on the import of cars, introduced back in 1985, seem more obvious than ever.
Today, we consider a Swedish schoolgirl named Greta to be an icon of the struggle for environmental ideals, but the Kyoto Protocol symbolizes the real ideals of the green movement in the world. An international agreement signed in November 1997 regulates the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere in order to counteract global warming.
The Kyoto Protocol does not directly affect the automotive industry. But, given that internal combustion engines are considered one of the main sources of carbon dioxide emissions (one of the harmful greenhouse gases), the impact of the agreement on the auto industry is enormous. The collective responsibility to comply with the agreements forces governments around the world to put pressure on the automotive business. In fact, increasingly stringent standards for the content of CO2 in the exhaust - we are talking about an endless series of Euro standards - and is a direct consequence of the Kyoto agreements.
Another important point should be noted. Serial production of the first-generation hybrid ToyotPrius began a few weeks after the signing of the protocol.Toyot marketers were able to skillfully fit their brainchild into a new ecological wave - and if in 1997 the number of sold "Prius" barely exceeded the mark of 300 copies, then by 2010 the total livestock of this model will exceed one and a half million units.
And today, hybrid or all-electric models are in the range of all car brands without exception.