The first practical automobile with a petrol engine was built by Karl Benz in 1885 in Mannheim, Germany. Benz was granted a patent for his automobile on 29 January 1886, and began the first production of automobiles in 1888, after Bertha Benz, his wife, had proved with the first long-distance trip in August 1888 (104 km (65 mi) from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back) that the horseless coach was absolutely suitable for daily use. Since 2008 a Bertha Benz Memorial Route commemorates this event.
Soon after, in 1889, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Stuttgart designed a vehicle from scratch to be an automobile, rather than a horse-drawn carriage fitted with an engine. They also are usually credited as inventors of the first motorcycle, the Daimler Reitwagen, in 1885, but Italy’s Enrico Bernardi, of the University of Padua, in 1882, patented a 0.024 horsepower (17.9 W) 122 cc (7.4 cu in) one-cylinder petrol motor, fitting it into his son’s tricycle, making it at least a candidate for the first automobile, and first motorcycle. Bernardi enlarged the tricycle in 1892 to carry two adults.
Many decades, the U.S.A. led the world in total automobile production. In 1929 before the Great Depression, the world had 32,028,500 automobiles in use, and the US automobile industry produced over 90% of them. At that time the U.S. had one car per 4.87 persons. After WWII the U.S. issued 3/4 of world’s auto production. In 1980 the U.S. was overtaken by Japan and became world’s leader again in 1994. In 2006, Japan narrowly passed the U.S. in production and held this rank until 2009, when China took the top spot with 13.8 million units. By producing 18.4 million units in 2011, China produced more than twice the number of second place the U.S. with 8.7 million units, with in Japan third place with 8.4 million units.
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