Having a career is such a usual part of everyday life that we do not really think about where it all began. Before there were cars we didn’t have auto mechanics so this is a field that had to develop over time. In the late 1800s, cars were being developed and setting the foundation for auto mechanics. A skill that also became hugely beneficial during a time of war, later laying the groundwork for economic growth around the world. In the USA it hit particularly hard. It truly is a fascinating story, so let’s jump into the history of auto mechanics as a profession.
A brief history of the invention of automobiles
Anyone who is an avid fan of vehicles is generally aware that it all began in the late 1800s and simply soared from then on. At the time this radical invention caught the eyes and hearts of many but seemed unattainable. Through the passion that these machines stirred however the emergence of mechanically inclined people started to engineer and perfect the automobile.
Wilhelm Maybach is credited with creating the first modern car in 1901 for Daimler Motren Gesellschaft. By today’s standards, the car would likely not meet the mark but keep in mind that being propelled forward by a machine versus a horse was revolutionary to achieve. The engine was thirty-five horsepower and weighed fourteen pounds. However, like any new technology, it would take time to be able to offer such a machine to the general public due to affordability. Over the first decade, cheaper alternatives were more popular but that did not mean that automobile enthusiasts would stop finding a way to increase production and decrease costs to the consumer.
In these early stages, Europe dominated the scene with its technological advancements and exposure to automobiles for several years. By the time the USA was on the scene, it was an unforgiving market of a luxury item that had no standardization. This made it incredibly difficult to find auto mechanics that could work on these vehicles in the USA. It was also becoming apparent that the need for automotive transportation was a necessity in the large landscape of the USA.
Auto mechanic profession origin story
As mentioned, European automobiles were well advanced and not really comparable to their American counterpart. But European automakers had one very important disadvantage that the Ford Motor Company would take advantage of to change the game entirely. Standardization was that key component lacking over the great pond.
The first people to own vehicles often had to face high repair costs due to the limited amount of people with the skills to work on automobiles, particularly in the USA where even fewer skilled individuals resided. It created a gap in the market that was open to coach drivers moving into a dual role. Car owners were now finding drivers that had mechanical knowledge and experience to be able to maintain and fix the vehicle. Taking away the need to find someone to get the repairs done. So you had this market of personal auto mechanics/drivers that really represented the first step into auto mechanics as a career path.
Ford made the changes for auto mechanics to be able to branch out on their own to create the auto mechanic workshop we know and love today. The Ford Motor Company played on the weakness of its competitors and standardized the build of the motor car. Creating the first assembly line vehicles and standardized parts. The parts of the car were manufactured in a factory and made according to a template rather than being handmade for each individual vehicle. The change in production allowed parts to be manufactured for cheaper. Overall, the whole process was now refined enough to make teaching auto mechanics much easier and allow auto mechanics to open shops to offer their services to the general public. The progression in the industry was fast. When 1915 rolled around roadside assistance became a newly offered service after four motorcyclists founded “First Aid Corps” in April of that year. This help for cars on the side of the road remained a separate service for some years before eventually evolving and integrating into an add-on service for car warranties.
Over the years following the Great Depression a split in the automotive industry happened. Alfred P. Sloan Jr is credited for the split. He devised a marketing plan that would drive the demand for new vehicles. The plan involved the aesthetics of the vehicle, making the best-looking car the fashionable thing to do, leading to the auto body segment in the automotive industry. People could now specialize in either automotive repairs or auto bodywork.
Automotive repair specialization includes:
- Engine expertise
- Chassis work and repair tools
- Transmissions, axles, driveshafts, and torque converters
- Electrical circuits
- Fuel types and systems
Auto bodywork specialization includes:
- Preparing a vehicle for repair
- Welding and glass
- Part alignment and laser equipment
- Plastic retexturing
- Primer, cleaning guns
- Paint mixing, application, and buffing