The automobile occupies a special place in the American psyche. For most of the 20th century, it was the economic backbone of the nation, spurring growth and innovation across industries including steel, rubber, glass, and petroleum. It was the impetus for the geographic spread of cities and the dispersion of families across the continent.
The car symbolizes freedom, status, and utility. It remains the first major acquisition for many Americans, and obtaining a driver’s license is a rite of passage for every teenage boy and girl. While aircraft and railroad passenger miles have steadily increased over the years, auto passengers still log 7.25 miles for every airplane and rail passenger mile combined.