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U.S. Auto Industry & Society

Impact on American Culture Post-WWII

Aside from the automobile, computer technology is the only other innovation of the 20th century to have had as pervasive and dramatic an impact on American culture. Politically, economically, socially, environmentally and even internationally, the American automobile industry has a historical and profound impact on American culture and society. The Depression and World War II served to diminish automobile manufacture and sales in the U.S., but immediately after the end of the war the automobile industry began to flourish—a trend that today makes it one of the most significant aspects of the American culture and economy. According to Mickey Kantor, Commerce Secretary, the automobile industry “generates one sixth of the value of all U.S. shipments of manufactured durable goods and consumes 30 percent of all the iron, 15 percent of all the steel, 25 percent of all the aluminum and 75 percent of all the natural rubber purchased by all industries in the United States. About 900,000 workers are directly involved in auto and auto-parts manufacturing in the United States and more than six million people are employed by related industries” (Gomez 2). In short, the American automobile industry is booming.

When we look at the impact of the automobile industry on American culture, we find that American culture is partially defined by the automobile. The automobile is American culture in many ways. During the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, the automobile has not only impacted culture but helped define it, “The 1950s and early 1960s were the peak era of the mass market, when everyone wanted to have what everybody else had. It was a time of conformity. Tract houses in new suburbs, each with its Chevy Impala and Barbie doll collection, trade-marked the era” (Bohon 6). Each new decade produced innovations in style, design and safety features. However, in each decade the styles, d...

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