GHDI logo

The Automobile (1913)

Automobile travel was pioneered in Wilhelmine Germany. The sophistication of German technology coupled with entrepreneurial enthusiasm to create many important breakthroughs in the automobile industry, the achievements of which were a source of great national pride.

print version     return to document list previous document      next document

page 1 of 2

Automotive technology is currently experiencing its most advanced stage of industrial expansion. This always occurs when an object has reached full “utilitarian maturity.” At this point, there is an optimal balance between supply and demand. On the one hand, we have a technical structure that has reached a state of perfection and is truly customized to everyone’s needs. Its price has fallen considerably, and its operation has also become significantly less expensive due to lower rubber prices and the increased use of gas, a local product, for fuel. On the other hand, we also see a growing regard for the car, a greater trust in its operational safety and performance – a trust that is being spread everywhere by examples and models, a greater familiarity with technical devices [on the part of the populace], along with greater technical know-how, and, finally, the overcoming of prejudices caused by “velocity excesses” in the automobile’s initial years and those of its development. These prejudices prevented expansion for quite some time.

Lower costs alone could not have triggered the astonishing spread of the automobile over the last few years. It was the full recognition of the car’s enormous economic, practical, and general value that first made its price less formidable in the eyes of many. As a consequence, buyers today are prepared to pay amounts that would be inconceivable for any other acquisition.

In this phase, automotive technology naturally has few radical and revolutionary innovations to offer. It is now entirely oriented toward production, since manufacturers are currently able to fabricate “standard types.” The typical passenger cars of the present day feature four-cylinder gas engines with electromagnetic ignition, frames of pressed steel, three- or four-gear transmissions, and power transference to the rear wheels via universal joints, drive shafts and bevel gears. Yet apart from the car’s general structure, it is especially important for the sake of operation that all its parts have been developed to function automatically, so that the lay driver is relieved of nearly all operational worries. The parts that still need to be operated and serviced are so accessible that they can be handled with relative ease. Fulfillment of these requirements has not only encouraged broad swathes of the population to use the automobile, it has also led people to take the operation of this complicated piece of machinery for granted. Doctors and businessmen no longer have any fear of traveling alone, since they know that little can happen to them. In case of emergency, they too know how to handle the few “trouble spots.”

There is also no denying the aesthetic reasons for the growing popularity of the car. The much maligned “bone-shakers” of yesteryear now hardly make any noise at all, thereby meeting the strictest demand of the day. [ . . . ]

first page < previous   |   next > last page