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Q: What is an American Car?

December 17, 2013 12:53 PM

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Consumers generally consider an American car to be one that is manufactured by an American company, rather than a car that is manufactured in the United States, but American cars have a styling that distinguishes them from European and Asian cars.

The American car companies dominated the global car market until the early 1980s. The globalization of manufacturing has affected the definition of an American car, as it has with other American products. Plenty of the cars made in the United States are actually manufactured by companies from other countries. Conversely, American carmakers often have manufacturing plants in other countries. Defining an American car becomes even more difficult when you consider that car manufacturers routinely own a significant share of other car companies. Thus, a car manufacturer in one country may be effectively owned by a company from another country.

The mass production of automobiles in the United States began in 1902 with the Oldsmobile Curved Dash. The Ford Motor Company greatly improved upon Oldsmobile's manufacturing process with a moving assembly line in 1914. The efficiency of assembly-line manufacturing and the size of the domestic market quickly allowed U.S. car manufacturers in the United States to dominate the world car market. However, the fuel crisis of the late 1970s favored the production of smaller, more fuel-efficient cars made in Japan, allowing Japanese carmakers to overtake American companies in terms of production.

The fuel economy of American cars improved rapidly during the 1980s, as American manufacturers dramatically reduced the size of their cars. Improvements in technology during the 1990s allowed manufacturers to increase the size of their cars once again while still improving fuel efficiency. American cars currently have a fuel economy that is competitive with foreign cars in their classes.

A car dealer in the United States may sell cars from virtually any manufacturer, although American cars and trucks are very popular. American cars generally offer a complete range of car options compared to cars made in other countries.

American cars may have almost any type of body style, but mid-size sedans are generally considered to be the most typical style of American cars. Pickup trucks are also closely associated with the American automotive market.

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