Which American Auto Manufacturer Was It?


By: Dave Davis

7 Min Quiz

Image: ilbusca/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Cars have evolved a great deal over the decades, and while some of the changes have been subtle — a fender curve here, a modest engine improvement there — other modifications have been game-changers. While British, German, French, Japanese and other world automakers have come up with innovations that have changed the marketplace, the United States is always at the forefront of automotive design and technology. How much do you know about the innovations that have come from automobile manufacturers based in the United States of America? This quiz will test your knowledge of American moxie and expertise. 

We take a great many of the developments that have shaped automobile design since the dawn of the 20th century for granted, but when they first came out, some of these innovations changed the way the driving public saw the automobile and its role not only in society but in their own lives. Before some of the inventions listed in this quiz, such as the electric starter, driving wasn't even a possibility for some. 

Many of these advancements first appeared in luxury vehicles but soon trickled down into consumer vehicles as the technology matured. Some are still only available in premiere models, but if history is any indication they will become commonplace soon enough.

So, are you schooled on automotive history? Are you up on American history? This quiz will link the two and test your knowledge of American ingenuity and motor vehicle evolution. We think you're up to the challenge, so let's do this! 

Before 1935, kids didn't argue over the car radio because it didn't exist. Which American automaker made these fights possible?

The first car radio was developed in 1930 by the Galvin Manufacturing Company, which would go on to become Motorola. Chevrolet would become the first automaker to offer the feature as an option. These, of course, were AM radios; FM radios would be offered in vehicles in 1952.


It's unclear how people took road trips and commuted to work without them, but which company developed the modern cup holder?

The modern cup holder makes any trip a little better, and they were developed hand-in-hand with the minivan. The cup holders we know and love were first installed in 1983 in the Dodge Caravan and the Plymouth Voyager (which were basically the same vehicle). Before then, "cup holders" were mainly little indentations on the inside of the glove compartment door which could only hold small cups when the car was stationary — if then.


It still seems like future tech, but which company first offered a "heads-up" display on their vehicles?

Taking your eyes off the road is never a good thing, but you need to see the dashboard information from time to time. With a "heads-up" display — or HUD — information such as speed, turn signals, lights and other data are projected onto the windshield. While still not standard, this option was first offered on the 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.


Ragtops are all well and good, but those wanting a retractable hardtop convertible got their wish when which company made their dreams come true?

The 1957 Ford Fairlane Skyliner offered something that no other convertible in the market could at the time — a retracting hardtop roof. The roof folded into the trunk, and while this left almost no space in the trunk for anything else, the Skyliner certainly made an impression on the driving public.


We don't care who you are — a warm bottom on a cool day is a treat. Seat warmers were brought to the driving experience by which company?

There's nothing like having your seat warm your bottom — instead of the other way around — on a cold day, and drivers of the 1966 Cadillac DeVille were the first drivers to be able to experience this luxury that earlier motorists could only dream of enjoying.


The laminated glass windshield has saved many lives during collisions over the years. Which was the first automaker to use this technology?

The Model T's in Europe were among the first vehicles to use laminated glass in windshields which, when broken, don't shatter into sharp shards of glass like plate glass but instead stay together, keeping the driver and passengers from getting cut. Tempered glass, which breaks into small, harmless pebbles, was introduced in the U.S. by Chrysler in 1936.


Back in the dawn of driving, cars were started with a crank. Which manufacturer did us all a favor by developing the electric ignition system?

Driving wasn't for the weak in the early 1900s — literally. Cars had to be started with a crank that took some muscle to move. Cadillac opened the world of driving to many by working with inventor Charles F. Kettering to put his new electric ignition into their vehicles, and the 1912 Cadillac Touring Edition changed the world.


Which American manufacturer is credited with making the five-day, 40-hour workweek standard for the country?

We take it as a given now, but the 40-hour workweek didn't get traction until Henry Ford made the change in 1926. At the dawn of the industrial revolution, factory workers often labored for 10 hours or more each day. Ford made the change — without dropping their pay — so that his workers would have more time off ... to buy things and improve company profits.


Keeping your hands to yourself is generally a good thing, but which automaker introduced touch screens in its vehicles?

Touch screens are becoming more commonplace today as our cars interact with our smartphones, but the technology isn't totally new. The 1986 Buick Riviera offered touch-screen control of the radio, climate control, the "trip computer" and other options.


It's a basic understanding of the manufacturing process today, but which company originated the use of the moving assembly line?

The industrial revolution kicked into high gear in 1913 when Henry Ford installed the first moving assembly line to produce automobiles. With this innovation, workers could focus on their tasks as the evolving car moved to them. It reduced the time it took to build a Model T from 12 hours to 2.5 hours.


Some drivers were happy to say "goodbye" to shifting with the advent of the automatic transmission. Which automaker offered the first?

The Hydramatic (or Hydra-Matic) transmission was first put into Cadillac and Oldsmobile models in the 1940 model year and eliminated the need for drivers to manually shift gears in their vehicles. While some cars still offer manual transmissions, the vast majority of cars built today use automatic transmissions.


It's not really raining, but it's doing more than misting. Which company first gave drivers intermittent windshield wipers?

Intermittent windshield wipers, called "variable speed" wipers at the time, were first offered as an option on the 1970 Lincoln Continental. The story of the wipers and their inventor, Robert Kearnes, who had to struggle to get them patented, was made into a 2008 movie, "Flash of Genius."


Where are we going and how do we get there? These are questions a GPS can answer; which automaker brought car-based models to the marketplace?

While handheld models were available at the beginning of the 1990s, the 1995 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight was the first car to include the GPS device as part of the option package. The Guidestar system, as it was called, was a $2,000 extra.


The night is dark and full of terrors — and deer and other things difficult to see in the dark. Which company first offered a night vision option?

By using a combination of thermal imaging, image enhancement and active illumination, night vision devices (NVD) were first offered on the 2000 Cadillac Deville. While this technology is far from commonplace, it is becoming increasingly common on luxury vehicles, including automobiles from Audi and BMW.


Sometimes there's just nothing on the radio. Which automaker gave motorists a choice of what to listen to, via 8-track tapes, in 1965?

You can still find them at yard sales and flea markets, but for a time the only alternative to listening to the radio on a car ride was to slap in an 8-track tape. Ford was the first automaker to offer drivers this option, putting it into the lineup in 1965.


Before 1938, no one could yell at you for not using your turn signals. Which company introduced the flashing electric turn signal?

Known as the "Flash-Way Directional Signal," Buick introduced electric flashing turn signals in 1938 as a much-needed safety feature. Two years later, the company included a self-canceling feature that shut the signal off after a turn. Post-1940 drivers really have no excuse.


Rolling down the highway got a lot easier with the invention of the cruise control. Which company was the first to offer this to its customers?

When traffic is steady, a cruise control can save a lot of the driver's energy on a road trip. While the technology dates back to the mid-1940s, the option was first included in the 1958 Chrysler Imperial.


Sometimes not all your wheels are on equal footing, so traction control systems come to their aid. Which automaker first introduced this tech?

When one wheel loses traction — due to icy or wet road conditions, for example — the driver might lose control of the vehicle. In 1971, Buick introduced what it called "MaxTrac," a traction control system that detected wheel spin and modulated engine power accordingly.


Roll 'em up! Which company first introduced power windows to the driving public?

It's hard to find a vehicle without them now, but power windows have been around longer than you might have thought. The 1941 Packard 180 was the first to market with this option, although it took a few years for the rest of the industry to hop on board.


They keep your face from being introduced to the steering wheel in the event of an accident. Which company first introduced the airbag?

The 1973 Oldsmobile Toronado was the first car to offer airbags as an option for its buyers. Actually, they only offered the one airbag — for the driver. Cars with multiple airbags for passengers would come along later.


Baby, it's cold outside — and also in the car! Can you name the automaker which first put a dedicated heating system into its vehicles?

In 1938, Nash came up with the concept of heating the cabin by using ventilation of outside air drawn through a heater core (a device that gets its heat from hot engine coolant). That concept is still used in today's vehicles.


It took some muscle to maneuver a big car down the street before this automaker introduced power steering. Can you name it?

The technology has existed since the dawn of the 20th century — it was used mainly for trucks — but the first commercially viable passenger car power steering system was introduced by Chrysler for its 1951 Imperial, using the name "Hydraguide." The next year, Cadillac offered its own version.


Kids will be kids, and it's the parents' job to keep them from jumping out of the car. Which company helped with this job by including child safety door locks?

The patent for a safety door latch that would prevent children from opening car doors was awarded to Joseph M. Schumann in 1949. In 1955 this technology, along with front seat belts, was incorporated into Ford vehicles. Others soon followed.


Cripes! You're blinding me! If only you knew the first company to offer automatic headlight dimming technology in vehicles ...

The sci-fi sounding "Autronic Eye" was first introduced in Cadillac and Oldsmobile models in 1952. This device used an electronic "eye" to sense light from other cars and took care of the process of dimming and re-engaging your headlight's high beam. You could see and you wouldn't blind oncoming traffic. A win-win!


You take windshield wipers for granted — until they stop when you step on the gas. Which company introduced electric wipers to combat this problem?

Early windshield wipers operated on a vacuum system, which worked fine until you had to step on the gas to accelerate and stopped the wipers for a time. In 1939, Chrysler introduced wipers that ran on the vehicle's electric system, keeping visibility and acceleration safely separate.


It's still future tech to us now, but which automaker is pioneering the use of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) tech to make driving safer?

Automobiles equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology wirelessly communicate with the automobiles around them as a way to help avoid collisions, traffic jams and more. The first car with this tech was the 2016 Cadillac CT6, and while it won't become an effective system until ALL vehicles are equipped with V2V, it has to start somewhere.


Man, it's hot ... out there. We're keeping our cool in the first vehicle to offer air conditioning. What make of car are we riding in?

Although the first air conditioning systems were available in 1933, they were installed as an aftermarket feature and only available in limousines and luxury cars. In 1939, Packard was the first automaker to offer AC as a feature in its cars. It wasn't a success (it was too big and too expensive), but it opened the door for climate control. Now close the door — we're not paying to cool the entire outside!


You want to go fast? Faster? Which automaker can you thank for introducing turbochargers to the automobile industry?

In 1962, GM offered turbocharged engines in the Corvair and the Oldsmobile F-85 Jetfire. Although they had different engines and turbochargers, the end result was the same: a significant increase in horses under the hood.


It was only trying to help you, but some customers felt like their car was nagging them after which automaker introduced electronic voice alerts?

Electronic voice alerts (EVA) were baked into Chrysler's K-Car series beginning in 1983. The helpful voice alerts — usually telling you your seat belt was unfastened — used the same tech as Texas Instrument's Speak & Spell toy. Irritated by the constant nagging, many owners pulled the fuse on the system, even though it was only trying to help.


By keeping the wheels from locking up, drivers could still slow down while maneuvering. Which automaker first introduced anti-lock brakes?

The first mass-produced car to use anti-lock four-wheel disc braking technology was Chrysler's 1971 Imperial, which used a system the company called "Sure Brake." This ABS was a standard feature of the vehicle and, since 2013, is mandatory for all new vehicles in the U.S.


Time to get to work! Which of these companies built the first modern heavy-duty pickup truck?

One of the first crew cab pickup trucks was the 1973 Chevrolet C30, and it is considered by many to be the first modern heavy-duty pickup truck. That particular truck also had curved side glass and a radio antenna integrated into the windshield. It was ready for work!


A chemistry lab for your car, which automaker was the first to use monolithic catalytic converters in its vehicles to reduce pollution?

A monolithic catalytic converter uses a palladium-impregnated ceramic honeycomb "monolith" that oxidizes and converts the toxic gases that are the result of the internal combustion process into less harmful gases, reducing pollution. Ford first introduced this technology into its vehicles in 1973.


Too hot ... too cold ... just right! Which automaker introduced the concept of "climate control"?

Nash developed a system that used AC, heat and outside air to hit a pre-determined temperature in 1954 — with limited success. In 1964, however, Cadillac managed to come up with a system that caught on with car buyers.


Carburetors are SO last season. Which automaker was first to the market with electronic fuel injection?

In 1958, Chrysler introduced an electronic fuel-injection system, dubbed the "Electrojector" on the company's 300D vehicles and other models. The results were ... not good. It was so pricey that only 35 models were sold, and most had to be replaced with standard carburetors because of unreliability. The 1968 Volkswagen Type 3 was actually the first successful use of the tech.


Relax and leave the driving to the computer. Which company was first to offer semi-autonomous technology on a commercial vehicle?

Although the company warned users that they should still keep their hands on the wheel, ready to take over driving, many Tesla owners ignored the advice in 2015, when the company offered the first commercially available semi-autonomous driving technology, called "Autopilot."


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