Mass motorization

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With the mass motorization to furnishing large designated populations with motorized means of transport. What is always meant is motorized individual transport . In Central and Western Europe , mass motorization began after the Second World War , especially from the 1950s, when the economic miracle set in in Germany .


Two variables are used as the main characteristics of mass motorization, the share of individual motorized transport in passenger transport performance on the one hand and the number of vehicles on the other. However, it is not clearly defined which threshold values ​​must be reached in order to speak of mass motorization.

In terms of the share of private motorized traffic in passenger transport performance, a share of over 50% is assumed as a sure sign of mass motorization. This value was exceeded in Germany in the course of the 1950s, when the number of cars reached around 100 vehicles per 1000 inhabitants. Other authors put 250 cars per 1000 inhabitants as the limit to mass motorization. This level of motorization was achieved in Western Europe around 1970. Another indication of mass motorization is the downgrading of the private automobile from a luxury item to a consumer good, as was the case in the Third Reich with the proclamation of the Volkswagen by Adolf Hitler or in the GDR with a resolution of 1954 according to which the car was to be regarded as a consumer good. These political determinations ultimately resulted in the development and production of the VW Beetle and Trabant types , which made mass motorization possible in Germany. The hallmark of mass motorization is therefore the presence of a car that is sold in large numbers at an affordable price. For the first time, mass motorization in the USA was realized with the Ford Model T. In other countries it happened much later, many countries are still not mass motorized. Some countries experienced particularly rapid development in the automotive industry. This is also the case in Japan . Not fully-fledged small cars with three wheels and a two-stroke engine were still being constructed here at the end of the 1950s. A few years later the country rose to become a major automobile manufacturer with brands such as Toyota and Mazda .

Causes of mass motorization

  • Technological development (led to the availability of affordable vehicles and the corresponding infrastructure for roads , gas stations, etc.)
  • Economic developments (rising incomes , changed forms of production e.g. just in time )
  • Demographic developments (population growth, smaller households)
  • Institutional developments (especially on the separation of living and working, Athens Charter )
  • Cultural developments (individualization but also emancipation of women, changed leisure activities, increase in the division of labor and the resulting transport of people and goods)
  • Perception of one's own motor vehicle as a status symbol
  • politically influenced trends ( individual motorization versus local public transport or long-distance transport )
  • Expansion of the settlement areas (suburbanization, urban sprawl)

Current situation

In connection with questions of environmental protection, climate change, but also urban quality of life , alternatives to motorized private transport have been increasingly discussed since the 1980s. One aspect of this traffic turnaround is the diminishing importance of one's own car as a status symbol . If one's own car was a figurehead for personal success in the 20th century, there are indications that the prioritization shown will also be lost due to the spread of the Internet and mobile communication devices. To what extent this development will affect the existence of mass motorization cannot yet be determined. There has been a significant increase in car sharing and car rental since the 1990s .

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Barbara Schmucki: Automobilisierung . Recent research on motorization. In: Archives for Social History . tape 35 , 1995, pp. 582 ff . ( [PDF; 4.4 MB ; accessed on June 24, 2009]).
  2. Urs Nussbaum: Motorized, politicized, accepted. The first federal law on motor vehicle and bicycle traffic from 1932 as an attempt to solve modern road traffic problems. In: European University Writings . Row III, No. 395 . Bern etc. 1989, p. 36 .
  3. ^ Jürgen Lewandowski: VW Types and History , Steiger Verlag, Augsburg 1998, ISBN 3-89652-126-8 , p. 8.
  4. ↑ Cabin scooter from Japan. In: Motor vehicle technology 10/1958, p. 394.