Vehicle Design History

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This paper is written from the vantage point of an automotive exterior component engineer who has been involved with vehicle body design and manufacturing of polymers and painted plastics. My experience in large scale injection molding, e-stat painting, and fabrication processes, as well as the business of the automotive industry, has motivated me to research the history of the automotive body design and its future. I have sought to investigate the events that produced unique vehicle designs and the trends of what the future may produce. This paper covers, in depth, the evolution of vehicle design and the factors that influenced it over the course of history and how it has shaped and is still shaping, today’s automotive design. This evolution is discussed decade by decade, from Henry Ford’s Model T through the present day push for Hybrid designs. This should offer insight as to why automakers choose the particular designs to bring to the market in the time they did. This should offer insight into the reasons - reasons of social, economic, cultural, and world events that served as the architectural infrastructure of the American automobile. Auto-makers have ridden the waves of their era to produce machines that appeal to the American and now world public. This is an appreciation of the waves of the history and their influence in automotive design. Additionally, the future of the automotive market is addressed in consideration of today’s present state of the industry, its relation/comparison to similar historical events, and current published information. An opinion of future implications for OEMs and suppliers is offered in terms relative to perceived expectations of the industry. The future of vehicle design is also covered and discussed by offering a view of perhaps the latest wave of vehicle evolution. The future of vehicle technology and its role in the global automotive market is weighed and compared against historical patterns of the industry as well.

For nearly a century, America’s economy has depended upon automotive sales and all that it encompasses for economic stability. History has taught America that stress in the automotive industry translates to economic recession. This paper offers a post investigation opinion of the single largest factor in automotive sales and thus the single largest factor to the automotive industry – vehicle design. The Evolution of the Automotive Design

Henry Ford struck the match, that lit the flame of the fire of the automotive world as we know it today. He did this with a ideology that David Gartman, author of “Auto Opium – A Social History of American Automobile Design”, cleverly calls Fordism – the marriage of mass production and mass consumption. Not only did Henry Ford author history by creating the mass producing assembly line, but he also helped to construct society here in the United States and in some ways around the world. What Henry Ford set in motion was more than just the birth and evolution of the automobile; it was as much a social and economic evolution – that over time has become intertwined, cyclic, and dependent. As the social and economic structure of the United States has evolved, so has the automobile. And, as history tells us, the automobile has provided the human race with a tangible status symbol of economic and social position. The following segment offers a few social, economic, and corporate influences that over the course of history, have served to shape and mold the development of the automobile design in the United States. This industrialized American saga of captialism is best described from the beginning (Henry Ford and the Model T) through the late 1970’s and early 1980’s where the history of automotive design begins to subdue under crisis and restructuring to converge, and shape the industry into its present day structure and...
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