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The Business of Cars

September 2008 is a milestone month for U.S. automakers: General Motors and the Ford Model T both turn 100 years old. We wish they had more to celebrate, but in their honor, here's a look at the business of cars.

  • <p>In 1908, a gallon of gas cost around 18 cents. Adjusted for inflation, that's about $3.90.</p>
  • <p>Ford produced more than 15,000,000 of the Model T, which averaged 21 miles per gallon.</p>
  • <p>GM has been the largest automaker in the world by production for 77 consecutive years, though analysts expect it to be surpassed by Toyota in the near future. </p>
  • <p>Toyota produces more than 1,500,000 cars per year in America and imports a million more. Last year it accounted for one of every five vehicles coming into the U.S.</p>
  • <p>Foreign automakers now produce about 55% of the cars sold in the U.S.</p>
  • <p>GM lost $38.7 billion in 2007. That's a sum larger than the individual GDPs of Luxembourg, Uruguay and 120 other countries. Toyota made more than $16 billion in the same year.</p>
  • <p>For model year 2008, the car with the best fuel economy is the Toyota Prius (48 mpg). The worst: Lamborghini's Murciélago (8 mpg). The average fuel economy of all new cars in 2007 was 26.7 mpg.</p>
  • <p>The U.S. automobile industry employed 1.1 million people in 2006, the latest year for which full data are available. About 5 times more people worked in related industries such as parts manufacture.</p>
  • 01 /08

    In 1908, a gallon of gas cost around 18 cents. Adjusted for inflation, that's about $3.90.

  • 02 /08

    Ford produced more than 15,000,000 of the Model T, which averaged 21 miles per gallon.

  • 03 /08

    GM has been the largest automaker in the world by production for 77 consecutive years, though analysts expect it to be surpassed by Toyota in the near future.

  • 04 /08

    Toyota produces more than 1,500,000 cars per year in America and imports a million more. Last year it accounted for one of every five vehicles coming into the U.S.

  • 05 /08

    Foreign automakers now produce about 55% of the cars sold in the U.S.

  • 06 /08

    GM lost $38.7 billion in 2007. That's a sum larger than the individual GDPs of Luxembourg, Uruguay and 120 other countries. Toyota made more than $16 billion in the same year.

  • 07 /08

    For model year 2008, the car with the best fuel economy is the Toyota Prius (48 mpg). The worst: Lamborghini's Murciélago (8 mpg). The average fuel economy of all new cars in 2007 was 26.7 mpg.

  • 08 /08

    The U.S. automobile industry employed 1.1 million people in 2006, the latest year for which full data are available. About 5 times more people worked in related industries such as parts manufacture.

In 1908, a gallon of gas cost around 18 cents. Adjusted for inflation, that's about $3.90.

A version of this article appeared in the September 2008 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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