Tag Archives: 1923 auto industry

Comparing the 1923 auto industry with today’s

Receently I read an article from the National Geographic, October 1923, entitled The Automobile Industry: An American Art that has Revolutionized Methods in Manufacturing and Transformed Transportation. Here are some interesting points comparing the 1923 auto industry with today’s.

In 1923, the United States had 13 million registered vehicles, and the national income was around 60 billion dollars. Contrast that with today’s figures of almost 250 million registered vehicles and a national income of almost 13 trillion dollars. That’s over 19 times as many vehicles and over 215 times the national income.

Start of the 1922 Indianapolis 500 with Barney Oldfield driving the National Sextet pace car © Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Start of the 1922 Indianapolis 500 with Barney Oldfield driving the National Sextet pace car © Indianapolis Motor Speedway

That year experts estimated that the gas consumption by the motor cars of the country would exceed six billion gallons. In 2013, the U.S. consumed almost 135 billion gallions of gas. In 1923, the average driver was able to coax 15 miles out each gallon of gas. By 2013, U.S. drivers posted an average of 23.6 miles per gallon.

Additional data about 1923 shows that 11 out of every 13 motor vehicles in the world were operated on American roads, and 12 out of every 13 produced in a given period being American-made in 1923.

Typical auto assembly line ©National Geographic
Typical auto assembly line ©National Geographic

More new cars would be put into commission in 1923 than were built from the birth of the industry up to the end of 1915. Available figures indicated that the total car sales for the year would approximate five million, including two million used vehicles. This meant that one family out of every four in the country annually figured in an automobile transaction.

Seventy percent of cars being sold were bought on the deferred-payment plan. Every fifty dollars’ reduction in selling price opened up a new field of a million prospects. The deferred-payment plan also widened the market tremendously for all cars, and now the much-discussed “five dollars down and five a week” scheme of the Ford Motor Company was enrolling hundreds of thousands of new customers.

Overland Park Campgrounds in Denver Colorado ©National Geographic
Overland Park Campgrounds in Denver Colorado ©National Geographic

The article predicted “measured by Indiana’s ratio of car-owners to population, the ultimate registration of the country would reach 18 million.” Total U. S. vehicle registrations totaled just over 111 million vehicles for 2012, for a growth rate of 616 percent.

The American tribute to the automotive engineer’s genius had made this industry the third largest in the United States. The automotive vehicle manufacturer had become the largest producer of finished goods in the world.

“The great triumvirate – the passenger car, the freight truck, and the farm tractor – are destined to write a record of service to America that will stamp the automobile engineer as one of the foremost contributors to human welfare in all the history of mankind.”

Over the years, the automobile has become part of the fabric of American life. People like myself owe our lives and/or livelihood to the American auto industry. That’s one of the reasons I am a “Genuine Car Nut.”

For more information on our automotive heritage follow this link.