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The Automobile (1913)

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An additional aesthetic requirement essential for the automobile’s growing popularity is the shape of its body. Developments over the last few years have had a decisive impact on this field. Designers have finally abandoned shapes derived from horse-drawn carriages and have created new, “only automobile” designs, which not only meet the wide range of functional requirements but also look beautiful with their sleek, slender lines. All ornament, faux decoration, and needless trim have been eliminated. The car has been given its own garment. This, it must be emphasized, is a German achievement. Shapes originally designed to meet functional demands have evolved into purely stylish forms, and at the last Paris car show, the German car body was the uncontested – and near envied – standard bearer of good taste.

All things considered, Germany has good reason to feel satisfied with its automotive achievements over the past year. It has seen record exports and growing international recognition of its sturdy, dignified car models. The “American threat” has had less of a negative effect on business than was once feared, since the lower quality of American mass-produced vehicles has become obvious to all. As a consequence, factories are experiencing a tremendous increase in production, which is already causing a certain saturation of the market, partly because of the turmoil of war. For this reason, efforts to target untapped consumer groups with suitable new products are an appropriate strategy. Carmakers are marketing lighter, two-seater models that cost between 3,500 and 4,000 marks, and these will doubtless meet with great demand and sell well. Small 50-HS cars are being built with two seats situated behind or next to each other. The asocial tandem-layout will probably not enjoy popularity for long.

Naturally, the use of utilitarian vehicles is also increasing dramatically, particularly heavy military trucks, fire trucks, transport vehicles for people and equipment, etc. The industry is pinning great hopes on the use of the internal combustion engine for motorized ploughs.

So the car is currently experiencing its best years!

Source: N. Stern, “Automobilbau” [“Building Automobiles”], in Das Jahr 1913. Ein Gesamtbild der Kulturentwicklung [The Year 1913. A Comprehensive Picture of the Development of the Culture], edited by D. Sarason. Leipzig and Berlin, 1913, pp. 259-61.

Original German text reprinted in Jens Flemming, Klaus Saul, and Peter-Christian Witt, eds. Quellen zur Alltagsgeschichte der Deutschen 1871-1914 [Source Materials on Everyday Life in Germany 1871-1914].. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft,1997, pp. 45-47.

Translation: Adam Blauhut

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