How Automobiles Became One of Our Prime Necessities

There is little evidence of there having been much public demand for compulsory automobile insurance until after 1920 when purchase of cars on long-time payments began to be popular.

The country was enjoying the fruits of war-time prosperity; mechanics and small tradesmen had incomes greater than ever before; women, entering industry during the period when man power was scarce, had almost doubled the domestic earning power; and if any family did not join the crowd on the highways in some sort of motor driven conveyance, it was rarely because of financial reasons.

The automobile, to everyone but the revenue collector, has left the luxury list and has become one of our prime necessities. The manufacturers of motor vehicles have increased production to a point where the United States now makes more than 80 per cent of the automobiles of the world. Allowing the high average of three hundred working days per year, the daily production is approximately fifteen thousand. No device of adroit financing or clever advertising has been overlooked in the campaign to sell a car to everyone who can possibly scrape up the first payment. Putting the world on wheels seems to be an ambition in a fair way of achievement.

Congestion in our big cities, due to inadequate transportation service, the building of factories far away from the centers of urban population, the general recognition of the automobile as a source of whole family enjoyment—all these have conspired to make “sales resistance” a feeble thing. The desire to own a car is liable to be gratified, even at the cost of shouldering what previously were considered impossible obligations. With the advent of large numbers of so-called installment buyers, began the sentiment which is apparently crystalized in the present cry for compulsory automobile liability insurance. The narrow financial margin—sometimes only an imaginary line—upon which this installment buyer operated left no place for an extra expense such as insurance beyond the fire and theft coverage included in the contract primarily to protect the dealer until the car was completely paid for.

The insurance agent, though himself awake to the advantages of property damage, liability and collision insurance did not strive for business among the less prosperous owners because he realized from experience that they were being pretty well pushed toward the financial edge by the payments and unexpectedly expensive upkeep of the automobile.

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