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An instructive--as well as entertaining--socioeconomic history of the automobile. Flink (Comparative Culture/Univ. of Cal., lrvine) draws on scholarly studies published in the last decade to update or to revise conclusions he reached in his 1975 work, The Car Culture. While the author focuses on the US, his start-to-present narrative assesses technological developments and the effects of ""automobility"" in virtually every nation that has a motor-vehicles industry, whether indigenous or controlled by foreign investors. As a practical matter, Flink argues, the automobile has not been a force For change in American civilization since the 1960's. No longer is either the government or the public willing to accommodate without reservation the wishes of Detroit and its customers. In fact, funds are being diverted from highway trusts to mass-transit programs: at the same time, regulatory authorities are taking a harder line on fuel consumption, safety, pollution, and allied concerns. During its 50-year heyday, Flink shows, the passenger car had a wide-ranging impact. Among other outcomes, it accelerated the advent of assembly-line production and mass-marketing techniques. Autos also created bonanzas for contractors as well as purveyors of lodging, recreation, restaurant, repair, and related roadside services. In the event, the author observes, the current renaissance of technology in the intensely competitive multinational automotive industry is based almost entirely on advances in electronics and computers--now the great engines of societal change. A fine round trip for horseless-carriage fans. The engaging text has over 60 illustrations, including turn-of, the-century ads, patent applications, and photos.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0262560550
Publisher: MIT Press