The automotive industry began in the 1890s with hundreds of manufacturers that pioneered the
horseless carriage. For many decades, the
United States led the world in total automobile production. In 1929, before the
Great Depression, the world had 32,028,500 automobiles in use, and the U.S. automobile industry produced over 90% of them. At that time the U.S. had one car per 4.87 persons.
World War II, the U.S. produced about 75 percent 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. With 19.3 million units manufactured in 2012, China almost doubled the U.S. production, with 10.3 million units, while Japan was in third place with 9.9 million units.
 From 1970 (140 models) over 1998 (260 models) to 2012 (684 models), the number of automobile models in the U.S. has grown exponentially.