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Summary and Discussion of Chapter 3

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Main Points

  • The Auto industry boomed in the first decade of the century and had impressive gains every year following World War 1.
    • Part of this increase following the war was due to the change in the gender roles with respect to driving. Due to the shortage of men during the war, women were relied upon to drive, maintain, and repair cars and trucks.
  • The War also caused a shift in manufacturing from a car dominated industry to one where trucks were in high demand.
    • This also led to the construction and improvement of the road networks across the country
    •  This improvement in the roads and highways created a increase in the Intercity Busing systems “with nearly 21,500 vehicles traveling 218, 601 route miles,” which in turn helped lead to the decline of the passenger rail industry.
  • In this time we also saw the auto industry turn from an effective monopoly (basically dominated by Ford) to the development of an oligopoly in the 1930’s where “80 percent of the market was now controlled by just three firms: General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford.”
  • The success of these American firms was also aided by the government which increased tariffs on foreign automobiles.
    • Do we see any of this in today’s world with other commodities?
  • In the mid-1920s the auto industry dominated the demand for many industries across the country including 80% of the rubber output, 75% of glass, 25% of machine tool purchases, 20% of the steel, and the cars it produced consumed about 90% of the nation’s gasoline output.

Discussion Questions

  • In the past decade or two, what events in the world or in the US have effected a specific industry or influenced the way our society acts?
    •  What would be an example that you could see happing in the future?
  • In what industries have we seen this shift towards oligopoly? How has this perception changed in the auto industry since the 1930’s with the addition of imported cars? Is there there still an oligopoly? If so, who are the leaders?
  • In what industries have we seen the boom and impact on society that can be comparable to the auto industry?


One Comment

  1. Thanks. Good points. We later covered the shift from an industry with rampant entry (and almost as rampant of exit) to Ford’s de facto monopoly to the Detroit Three oligopoly of post-1925 period.

    Now partly because of the array of speakers we are not spending much time on social and cultural issues this term. There are many! – if you want to follow up, look at: Heitmann, John Alfred. The Automobile and American Life. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2009. (Heitmann was a speaker in the class in 2014.) See his blog The Automobile and American Life, I also just added a link to the site blogroll.

    May 7, 2016

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