US automakers: The early days

By | February 27, 2017

In an earlier post, we looked at the production pattern for US automakers since the 1980’s. But it would be wrong not to show the incredibly rich US automotive history which dates back to the 1800’s. According to Wikipedia, the first US automobile manufacturer was Roper, founded in 1860. However, today I’ve chosen to start the timeline a bit later, or more specifically, from the year 1893. This was the year when Duryea demonstrated the first successful gas-engine vehicle built in the US. They were at the forefront of an automotive revolution, sparking a massive influx of new automobile manufacturers. Sadly, the story for most automakers tends to come to an early end.

From 1893 to 1930, over 700 auto manufacturers opened their doors and vied for the lucrative share of the US auto market. To this day, only 9 of the original 700 companies remain in business. Chrysler (1925), Dodge (1914), Ford (1903), Lincoln (1920), GM (1908), Buick (1903), Cadillac (1902), Chevrolet (1911), and GMC (1912). I’ve put together a graph to help show the scale of these numbers.  The Y-axis reflects the original founding year and each circle represents the number of companies that closed business within a given time frame of their founding date. (You are able to scroll over the range to view the number of companies.)

US Automaker Survival (1893-1930)

Following a very active period at the turn of the last century, the US auto manufacturing sector has yet to see the same diversity of companies as it had in its early days. Only a total of 69 automakers entered the market between The Great Depression and 1960. Three of these companies remain active today: Jeep (1941), E-Z-GO (1954), and Polaris (1954).

US Automaker Survival (1831-1960)