Automotive industry, all those companies and activities involved in the manufacture of motor vehicles, including most components, such as engines and bodies, but excluding tires, batteries, and fuel. The industry’s principal products are passenger automobiles and light trucks, including pickups, vans, and sport utility vehicles. Commercial vehicles (i.e., delivery trucks and large transport trucks, often called semis), though important to the industry, are secondary.

The history of the automobile industry, though brief compared with that of many other industries, has exceptional interest because of its effects on 20th-century history. Although the automobile originated in Europe in the late 19th century, the United States completely dominated the world industry for the first half of the 20th century through the invention of mass production techniques. In the second half of the century the situation altered sharply as western European countries and Japan became major producers and exporters.

Although steam-powered road vehicles were produced earlier, the origins of the automotive industry are rooted in the development of the gasoline engine in the 1860s and ’70s, principally in France and Germany. By the beginning of the 20th century, German and French manufacturers had been joined by British, Italian, and American makers.

Most early automobile companies were small shops, hundreds of which each produced a few handmade cars, and nearly all of which abandoned the business soon after going into it. The handful that survived into the era of large-scale production had certain characteristics in common. First, they fell into one of three well-defined categories: they were makers of bicycles, such as Opel in Germany and Morris in Great Britain; builders of horse-drawn vehicles, such as Durant and Studebaker in the United States; or, most frequently, machinery manufacturers. The kinds of machinery included stationary gas engines (Daimler of Germany, Lanchester of Britain, Olds of the United States), marine engines (Vauxhall of Britain), machine tools (Leland of the United States), sheep-shearing machinery (Wolseley of Britain), washing machines (Peerless of the United States), sewing machines (White of the United States), and woodworking and milling machinery (Panhard and Levassor of France). One American company, Pierce, made birdcages, and another, Buick, made plumbing fixtures. Two notable exceptions to the general pattern were Rolls-Royce in Britain and Ford in the United States, both of which were founded as carmakers by partners who combined engineering talent and business skill.

In the United States almost all of the producers were assemblers who put together components and parts that were manufactured by separate firms. The assembly technique also lent itself to an advantageous method of financing. It was possible to begin building motor vehicles with a minimal investment of capital by buying parts on credit and selling the finished cars for cash; the cash sale from manufacturer to dealer has been integral in the marketing of motor vehicles in the United States ever since. European automotive firms of this period tended to be more self-sufficient.

The pioneer automobile manufacturer not only had to solve the technical and financial problems of getting into production but also had to make a basic decision about what to produce. After the first success of the petrol engine, there was widespread experimentation with steam and electricity. For a brief period the electric automobile actually enjoyed the greatest acceptance because it was quiet and easy to operate.

The outstanding contribution of the automotive industry to technological advance was the introduction of full-scale mass production, a process combining precision, standardization, interchangeability, synchronization, and continuity.

Although the appearance of mass production in the automotive industry coincided with the emergence of large-scale business organization, the two had originated independently. They were related, however, and influenced each other as the industry expanded. Only a large firm could make the heavy investment in plant and tooling that the assembly line required, and Ford was already the largest single American producer when it introduced the technique. The mass producer in turn enjoyed a cost advantage that tended to make it increasingly difficult for smaller competitors to survive. There have been exceptions, but the trend has been consistent.

The period from 1919 to 1939 also brought significant growth in automobile manufacturing in Europe, though on a considerably smaller scale than in the United States. The European industry was moving in the same directions as the American industry, toward a mass market for motor vehicles, but it made slower progress for a variety of reasons: lower living standards with less purchasing power, smaller national markets, and more restrictions in tax and tariff policies. Still, the same trend toward concentration was discernible. British automotive production rose from 73,000 in 1922 (both private and commercial vehicles) to 239,000 in 1929, while the number of producers declined from 90 to 41. Three firms—Austin, Morris, and Singer—controlled 75 percent of the British market in 1929.

During World War I the productive capacity of the automotive industry first demonstrated its military value. Motor vehicles were used extensively for transport and supply. In addition, automotive plants could readily be converted into facilities for manufacturing military equipment, including tanks and aircraft. For all of the belligerents the conversion of automotive facilities was an afterthought, improvised after the beginning of hostilities, and the American industry, involved only for a short time, never fully utilized its capacity.

More preparation was made for using the resources of the various automotive industries as World War II approached. The British government built “shadow factories” adjacent to their automotive plants, equipped to go into military production (principally aircraft) when war came, with managerial and technical personnel drawn from the automotive industry.

After World War II there was a striking expansion of motor vehicle production. During a 35-year period the total world output increased almost 10-fold. The most significant feature of this increase was that most of it occurred outside the United States. Although American production continued to grow, its share of world automotive production fell from about 80 percent of the total to 20 percent. Among individual countries the United States was the leading producer until the recession of the early 1980s. In 1980 Japan, which had had little automotive manufacturing before the war, became the leading producer, with the European Economic Community (EEC) ranking second. The United States regained the lead in vehicle production in 1994, since by that time Japanese manufacturers were building more of their products in factories in their major overseas markets, such as the United States, in response to economic and political pressures in those markets.

Technically, the decades after World War II had been marked by improvement and refinement rather than by important innovation. Diesel engines were increasingly used on trucks and buses. Automatic transmissions became virtually standard equipment for passenger cars, and power brakes and power steering found widespread acceptance, as did luxury features such as air-conditioning. In the early 1960s Chrysler experimented with a gas turbine engine for passenger automobiles, but it had too many technical problems for general use.

Styling became increasingly important in automotive design as a marketing device. The general trend in styling became established late in the 1920s when cars began to lose their square, boxlike lines and to develop flowing curves. In time the new design encompassed both body and chassis, integrating such formerly separate features as mudguards, running boards, and bumpers. A combination of pressures made American cars of the 1950s high-powered and ornate, with extravagant use of chrome and exaggerated tail fins; these features were abandoned when the public found the simpler lines of imported cars more attractive.

In Europe motor vehicles were recognised as an export item that could help restore war-shattered economies. Britain, for example, earmarked more than half of its automotive output for export and restricted domestic purchases for several years after the war. In addition, the horsepower tax was abandoned to enable British manufacturers to build profitably for the world market. The most popular British designs (excluding specialized luxury vehicles such as the Rolls-Royce) continued to be lightweight cars, including several models with an ingenious front-wheel drive. The trend to consolidation led in 1952 to the merger of Morris and Austin to form the British Motor Corporation, Ltd., a combine that accounted for about two-fifths of Britain’s motor vehicle production. Another British combine was formed around Leyland Motors, which had grown into the country’s largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles and became a power in the passenger-car field by acquiring Standard-Triumph and Sunbeam in the 1950s. Leyland and the British Motor Corporation united in 1968 as the British Leyland Motor Corporation (later British Leyland Ltd. and, after 1978, BL Ltd.); this move, sanctioned by the government, was intended to forestall possible American domination of the British automobile industry. Except for Rolls-Royce, whose automobile production was only a very small part of the company’s business, British automobile output was then largely controlled by four firms: British Leyland, Ford, Vauxhall, and Rootes, which came under Chrysler control in 1967 but was sold off to France’s Peugeot-Citroën in 1978.

In the 1980s the remaining parts of BL, which by then was focused on building Jaguar, Mini, and Rover cars and Land Rover sport utility vehicles and commercial trucks, became the Rover Group. Eventually Jaguar regained profitability, and the British government sold off the company through a public stock offering. The remaining Rover/Mini operations were acquired by British Aerospace Corporation. Rover then entered into a cooperative venture with Japan’s Honda in which cars of Honda design were built at Rover plants for sale in Britain and other European countries under the Rover and Honda brands. A small number also were exported to the United States under the Sterling name. Eventually Honda became dissatisfied with the venture, and British Aerospace sold the Rover/Mini operations to BMW of Germany in 1994. In 2000 BMW sold the Land Rover segment to Ford, which had acquired the stock of Jaguar in 1989, while its Rover cars segment was spun off to a British consortium and became MG Rover Group Ltd. BMW retained the profitable Mini operations. In the late 1990s Britain’s Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, then owned by Vickers PLC, became the subject of a bidding war in which Germany’s Volkswagen emerged as the owner of the company’s Bentley brand and all of its manufacturing facilities; BMW emerged as the owner of the Rolls-Royce brand with respect to cars, effective at the end of 2002.

The modern automotive industry is huge. In the United States it is the largest single manufacturing enterprise in terms of total value of products, value added by manufacture, and number of wage earners employed. One of every six American businesses is dependent on the manufacture, distribution, servicing, or use of motor vehicles; sales and receipts of automotive firms represent more than one-fifth of the country’s wholesale business and more than one-fourth of its retail trade. For other countries these proportions are somewhat smaller, but Japan, South Korea, and the countries of western Europe have been rapidly approaching the level in the United States.

About the Automotive Industry

The automotive industry is a wide range of companies and organizations involved in the design, development, manufacturing, marketing, and selling of motor vehicles,.

The term automotive was created from Greek autos (self), and Latin motivus (of motion) to represent any form of self-powered vehicle.]

The automotive industry is a vital part of the UK economy accounting for more than £71.6 billion turnover and £18.9 billion value added.

With some 169,000 people employed directly in manufacturing and in excess of 814,000 across the wider automotive industry, it accounts for 12.0% of total UK export of goods and invests £4 billion each year in automotive R&D.

More than 30 manufacturers build in excess of 70 models of vehicle in the UK supported by more than 2,000 component providers and some of the world’s most skilled engineers.

Why choose a career in the Automotive Industry?

The Automotive industry is one of the world's most important economic sectors by revenue.

Around the world, there were about 806 million cars and light trucks on the road in 2007, consuming over 980 billion litres (980,000,000 m3) of petrol and diesel fuel yearly. The automobile is a primary mode of transportation for many developed economies., one-third of world demand will be in the four BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India and China).

This industry not only provides long term, stable career prospects but is an interesting, dynamic and ever evolving industry.

What personnel are in demand who should contact us?

There are a wide variety of Automobile industry related jobs across a range of disciplines. Typically the following personnel can transfer with ease with a little assistance:

Project Managers, Project Engineers, Automotive engineers and designers, Electrical engineers, Mechanical engineers, Safety personnel, planning engineers, document controllers, systems integrators, maintenance and service personnel, plant operators, admin personnel, Automotive R&D personnel.

There is also a demand for senior commercial and managerial roles (eg.. business development managers, country and sales managers, those with Technical Safety experience, government relations and  project management. 

In most instances no training will be required prior to placement, but we are able to assist where required. We will put you in touch with employers happy to engage you with your current skills and qualifications.

We will help you re-engineer yourself into this evolving high prospects industry.