Automobiles are four-wheeled vehicles that can be used to transport people, goods, and other equipment. They can be powered by gasoline, diesel, or electricity and have a variety of propulsion systems, engines, drive types, and layouts.
Vehicles come in many forms and sizes, including sedans, SUVs, vans, sports cars, minivans, limousines, trucks, and buses. They are often seen as symbols of modern technology, but they also bring with them new laws and regulations, environmental concerns, and health risks.
Cars are the most commonly used vehicles in the world, and account for more than 1.4 billion sales worldwide. There are a number of factors that determine the type of vehicle a consumer chooses to purchase, including price, availability, and the desired purpose for use.
The automobile industry is complex, with employees engaged in a wide range of disciplines, including research and development (R&D), design, sourcing, manufacturing, supply chain management, marketing, sales, and financing. This complexity requires an extensive education base and extensive technical knowledge, which helps automotive firms compete globally.
In addition, the automobile industry has a strong connection to the larger economy. Auto-related companies employ millions of people, contribute significantly to economic growth and development, and produce a wealth of products and services.
Governments play a key role in the evolution and momentum of the automotive industry. Across the three stages of growth–incubation, penetration, and sustainability–governments introduce policies that influence the evolution of the industry.
During the incubation stage, governments often demonstrate a protectionist attitude and restrict imports by implementing tariffs and other trade barriers. This strategy can help protect domestic manufacturing and production, but it can also limit competition and harm quality.
The government should promote local manufacturing and support timely and appropriate capital investment in order to ensure an infant industry has the capacity to grow. It should also encourage global collaboration by developing an enabling environment that allows for international trade and investments in emerging markets.
Penetration, or mass-market development, begins when the industry reaches a critical mass and a segment of the population becomes receptive to cars. During this stage, OEMs strive to offer vehicles that are both affordable and of high value to customers.
This approach is most successful in emerging economies with rapidly growing middle classes. As these populations begin to demand more mobility and convenience, the demand for low-cost, efficient compact cars increases.
For many consumers, owning a car provides the freedom to meet all their daily commitments with minimal inconvenience. For example, owning a vehicle can make it possible to take your kids to school or work every day without having to worry about paying for transportation costs.
A car can also be a symbol of social status and prestige. For instance, in 1916 two women in the United States drove around with “votes for women” banners on their vehicles, demonstrating their support for the right to vote.
Incentives for innovation and R&D are also important to the development of the automotive sector. These incentives can be based on financial rewards, technology transfers, tax breaks, or other measures that benefit manufacturers and consumers alike.