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Chapter 2 Discussion Questions

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What is the short-term and long-term importance of Henry Ford in the timeline of the auto industry? What made his contributions to car-building and car-selling significant if not revolutionary? How was he different from the inventors and entrepreneurs who preceded him?

What was the threshold in price or quality that triggered the rise of automobile ownership at the beginning of the twentieth century? At what point was an automobile considered “worth it” for consumers outside of the upper class? When did the automobile cease to be a plaything for the rich and take up its current role(s)?

Aside from technological and industrial innovations, what were the consequences of the early automotive industry’s rapid development? What sort of impact, if any, did increasingly competent cars have on class, gender, and lifestyle?

One Comment

  1. Thanks!

    Think of the Model T as the equivalent of a “killer app”, demonstrating that it was possible to sell cars in large volume to ordinary consumers. Part of this was vision, part was that he was a really good engineer. The vision thing later plagued the company, as success confirmed his beliefs, and so he didn’t readily modify (much less change) his vision as he got older.

    But as per class, the era leading up to WWI, and then the war era itself, was one of rising incomes and growing population. What we had not time to examine was the change in infrastructure that made cars more practical. Did that occur before, during, or after this growth of the market? I don’t know.

    May 7, 2016

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