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Employment Outlook in
the Automobile Industry

Bulletin No. 1138
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
M a r t i n P. D u r k i n , Secretary
BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS
Ewan Clague, Commissioner

In cooperation with
VETERANS ADMINISTRATION

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office,
Washington 25, D. C. — Price 25 cents



Cover picture— Automobiles coming off the final assembly line.

The photographs reproduced in this bulletin are by the courtesy of the Automobile Manufacturers Association.




Letter o f Transmittal

U nited S tates D epartment of L abor,
B ureau of Labor S tatistics,
Washington , D. C., February 24,1953.

The S ecretary of L abor:
I have the honor to transmit herewith a report on the employment out­
look in the automobile industry. This is one of a series of Occupational Out­
look studies for use in the vocational counseling of veterans, young people in
schools, and others interested in choosing a field of work. The study was
financed largely by the Veterans Administration, and the report was orig­
inally published as a Veterans Administration pamphlet for use in vocational
rehabilitation and education activities.
The study was conducted in the Bureau's Division of Manpower and Em­
ployment Statistics under the supervision of Sol SwerdlofF. The report was
prepared by E. Eleanor Rings and Arthur D. Rosenberg with the assistance
of Evelyn R. Kay. The Bureau wishes to acknowledge the generous assistance
received in connection with this study from officials of labor unions, trade
associations, automobile companies, and various government agencies.
Hon. Martin P. D urkin ,
Secretary of Labor.




E wan Clague, Commissioner.




Contents

Page

The automobile industry ......................................................................................................................... 2
Organization ...................................................................................................................................... 2
Size ......................................................................................................................................................... 2
Location ................................................................................................................................................ 3
How automobiles are made....................................................................................................................... 4
Planning for new model production..................................................................................
4
Making automobile parts ............................................................................................................... 6
Production on the final assembly line.......................................................................................... 8
Jobs in the industry.................................................................................................................................... 9
Technical occupations .............................................................................................................................. 10
Plant occupations ..........................
12
Metalworking ...........................................................................................................
12
Machining .................................................................................................................................... 12
Foundry ........................................................................................................................................ 13
Forging ........................................................................................................................................ 13
Other metalworking occupations ......................................................................................... 14
Assembling ......................
15
Inspection ............................................................................................................................................ 16
Finishing ............................................................................................................................................. 16
Material movement and maintenance ........................................................................................ 17
Administrative and office occupations.................................................................................................. 17
Earnings and working conditions..............................................................................
19
Earnings ............................................................................................................................................. 19
Other employee benefits...............................................
19
Working conditions ........................................................................................................................... 21
Labor organizations ......................................................................................................................... 22
Trends in production and employment..............................................................
22
Early growth of the industry........................................................................................
22
Employment since World War II.................................................................................................. 23
Defense activities of automobile companies....................................................
25
Employment outlook ................................................................................................................................ 26
Prospects for 1953 and 1954............................................................................................................ 27
Long-range prospects .....................................................................
27
Tables

1. Concentration of employment in the automobile industry in large plants contrasted
with average for all-manufacturing industries .............................................................
2. Estimated number of workers in selected plant occupations in the motor vehicle
industry, fourth quarter, 1952..............................................................................................
3. Average straight-time hourly earnings for selected occupations in the automobile
industry, by type of plant, United States, February-April 1950 .........................
4. Increase in use of passenger cars, 1920-75...................................................................................

3
10
20“
28

Charts

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Assemblers make up the largest occupational group in the automobile industry........
Automobile industry has better than average safety record ............................................
Trend in production of motor vehicles, 1910-1952 ..................................................................
Trend of employment in the automobile industry, 1939-1952 ............................................
Trend in motor vehicle registration and number scrapped ...............................................




9
21
23
24
29
V




E m ploym ent O u tlook in th e A u tom ob ile Industry

Few inventions have made such an impact
on everyday life as has the automobile. The
commonplaceness of motor vehicles makes it
hard to imagine a world without them, and yet
they are a twentieth century product.
About two-thirds of the families in the
United States own automobiles. This country
manufactured nearly 78 percent of the world's
passenger cars and more than 57 percent of
all trucks in 1951. At the beginning of 1953,
some 53 million passenger cars and trucks
traveled along the Nation's streets and high­
ways. With production of at least 5 million
motor vehicles a year for the last 4 years, it is
easy to understand why the automobile industry
has become one of the giants of American en­
terprise and of major importance in the econ­
omy. It provides jobs for more workers than
any other industry.
The automobile industry is a pioneer and an
excellent example of mass-production tech­
nology. Its basic characteristic is the manufac­
ture of great quantities of identical parts which
are completely interchangeable and which can
be assembled speedily into completed units.
The industry is the major consumer of many
basic commodities, such as steel, rubber, and
glass. As the largest single customer of the
steel industry, the automobile industry uses
nearly one-fifth of all the steel produced in the
United States.
Because of its large size—more than 900,000
workers were employed at the beginning of
1953—and its basic importance in the Nation's
economic and social life, the automobile in­
dustry will continue to be a major source of
new job opportunities. In a typical year the
industry will hire many thousands of new em­
ployees to replace the large number of workers



who die, retire from the work force, or leave
the industry to take jobs in other fields. These
replacement vacancies will create most of the
new job openings that the industry fills. A
thorough study of the trends in automobile pro­
duction, technology, and employment leads to
the conclusion that the industry will not sub­
stantially increase its employment in the fore­
seeable future, despite the ever-growing num­
ber of cars and trucks on our streets and
highways.
The automobile industry provides many job
opportunities for men and women in a wide
range of occupations. Training requirements
vary from college degrees for engineers and
other technical personnel to a few days of onthe-job training for some of the less skilled
assemblers. About an eighth of the industry's
work force are women. Most automobile em­
ployees work in modern factory buildings
where the working conditions and the safety
records are good. On the average, earnings
are higher than in most other manufacturing
industries.
The automobile industry provides opportu­
nity for persons whose abilities and interests
may differ widely. It employs a large force of
technical personnel. The largest group are the
various types of engineers: automotive, me­
chanical, electrical, and industrial. Other tech­
nical personnel include chemists, metallurgists,
and draftsmen. Some automobile employees
work in office and administrative occupations.
Their jobs range from clerks and business
machine operators to accountants and purchas­
ing agents, from stenographers and typists to
market analysts and industrial relations per­
sonnel. However, by far the largest number
of automobile workers are those in factory
1

2

EM PLOYM ENT OUTLOOK IN THE AUTOMOBILE IN D U STR Y

occupations. These include many skilled crafts­
men such as tool and die makers, millwrights,
hammermen, and electricians as well as lesser
skilled machine operators and assemblers.
This report discusses the employment out­
look for the industry. It outlines the trend of
employment and production and lists some of

the factors that will affect employment pros­
pects in the next few years and over the long
run. It presents the duties and training re­
quirements for some of the more important
occupations. Information regarding earnings
and working conditions is also included.

The Automobile Industry

ous outside suppliers. A manufacturer of a
complete motor vehicle may purchase axles
from one supplier, bodies from a second, and
transmissions and gears from a third, and
finally assemble the motor vehicle in his own
plant.
The other segment of the automobile industry
consists of the automotive parts plants special­
izing in the production of parts and subassem­
blies of the motor vehicle and employing about
40 percent of the automobile industry's total
work force. These firms supply parts for the
Organization o f the Industry
new automobile and also produce the replace­
The automobile industry consists of some ment parts necessary to keep the millions of
1,900 plants organized roughly into two types: automobiles in operation. Included in this seg­
(1) those which turn out complete vehicles, ment are plants which specialize in producing
and (2) those which make parts to be as­ such items as passenger-car bodies, engines,
sembled into these vehicles or to be used as brakes, clutches, axles, radiators, and transmisions, as well as those which make accessories
replacement parts.
such as defrosters, heaters, and windshield
About 60 percent of the workers in the auto­ wipers. Plants making truck and bus bodies
mobile industry are employed by about 35 com­ and truck trailers also are included in this
panies which produce complete motor vehicles. group.
In 1951, the largest automobile company in the
world mass-produced more than 2.5 million Size of the Industry
motor vehicles. However, a number of small
firms turn out only a few custom-built vehicles
One of the most significant
such as fire engines and racing cars. Although a automobile manufacturing is characteristics of
few of the larger companies manufacture a con­ ations. In general, most of the size of oper­
the automobile
siderable proportion of the parts that make up plants are large, with a few capable of both
the complete vehicle, all of the automobile com­ manufacturing and assembling the automo­
panies obtain many of their parts from numer­ bile's more than 16,000 parts. However, plants
range in size from huge factories employing
1 Not considered part of this industry, however, are plants which
25,000 or more workers down to small plants
make many of the accessories of a motor vehicle, like headlamps,
body hardware, tires, ignition systems, and storage batteries. These
that employ only a few workers.
products are produced in establishments classified in other indus­
tries. The definition of the industry used in this report is SIC 371—
According to the 1950 Annual Survey of
Motor Vehicles and Motor-Vehicle Equipment. (Standard Industrial
Classification, Bureau of the Budget, November 1945.)
Manufactures, about two-thirds of all auto­

The automobile industry is composed of
plants making the thousands of parts which go
into motor vehicles and assembling these parts
into completed vehicles. Besides making pas­
senger cars and trucks, the industry produces
special types of motor vehicles, such as busses,
fire engines, ambulances, hearses, and many
kinds of trailers. Automobile companies also
manufacture the thousands of replacement
parts used each year to service and repair
vehicles.1




THE AUTOMOBILE IN D U STR Y

mobile workers were employed in 75 establish­
ments, each having 2,500 or more employees.
By way of comparison, less than one-fifth of
all manufacturing employees in the United
States worked in establishments with 2,500 or
more employees (table 1). The large plants are
generally those which produce complete ve­
hicles. Assembly operations require a large
area to accommodate the huge quantities of
parts and equipment and the sizable work force
needed to turn out hundreds of complete ve­
hicles a day. Parts and accessories plants are
generally much smaller,
Because of the vast quantities of materials
and large amount of metalworking operations
involved in producing parts and assembling
them into complete automobiles, capital require­
ments in the industry are high. The thousands
of special tools, dies, and jigs used in the many
metalworking operations range in cost from
a few hundred dollars to over a million dollars.
A set of dies, for example, used in stamping
out the body of a car amounts to as much as a
million dollars, and the huge press equipped
with such dies runs as high as $750,000. How­
ever, the large volume production absorbs these
tremendous costs so that at the end of the use
of the die, the cost per car may be only 4 or
5 dollars.
A few automobile companies produce the
bulk of all motor vehicles. The 3 major auto­
mobile manufacturers, each producing 3 or
more different makes of passenger cars, turned
out 87 percent of all passenger cars and 80
percent of all the trucks made in the United
States in 1952. The remaining motor vehicles
were made by about 30 other firms.
Table 1.—Concentration of employment in large plants
contrasted w ith average for all-m anufacturing
industries
Manufacturing establishments
with average employment of:

Percentage of workers by plant-size groups
Automobile industry

_________
All plant sizes___
1-249 employees_____________ _
250-499 employees . ___________
500-999 employees____________
1000-2499 employees___________
2500 or over employees__________

100.0
5.1
3.6
7.1
21.5
62.7

All-manufacturing
industries
100.0
41.0
14.0
13.0
14.4
17.6

Source: 1950 Annual Survey of Manufactures, U. S. Department of Commerce,
Bureau of the Census



3

Location of the Industry

Plants making automobiles and parts are
scattered throughout 41 States. Automobile
manufacturing, however, is concentrated in
the Great Lakes region, where more than fourfifths of the workers are employed. Michigan
alone accounted for more than half the industry’s
employment in 1951. Another 18 percent were
employed in its 2 neighboring States of Ohio
and Indiana. Seven other automobile-produc­
ing States each employed 10,000 or more auto­
mobile workers: New York, Wisconsin, Penn­
sylvania, California, Illinois, New Jersey, and
Missouri.
Detroit is the center of the industry. About
one out of every three of the Nation’s automo­
bile workers is employed within its industrial
area which includes such nearby communities
as Dearborn and Pontiac. Several other Michi­
gan cities, especially Flint, Lansing, Saginaw,
and Ypsilanti, employ large numbers of auto­
mobile workers. The Great Lakes region has
many other important centers, particularly
Cleveland, Toledo, and Cincinnati, Ohio; South
Bend, Indianapolis, and Fort Wayne, Ind.;
Chicago, 111.; and Milwaukee and Kenosha,
Wis. In the East, Buffalo, N. Y., has a large
cluster of automobile facilities. Much of the
automobile manufacturing on the East Coast
is centered in the New York-Northeastern New
Jersey industrial area in such localities as
Newark, Linden, and New Brunswick, N. J .;
and New York and Tarrytown, N. Y. Other
large facilities in the East are located in the
industrial areas of Philadelphia, Pa., Balti­
more, Md., and Wilmington, Del. The indus­
try’s operations in central United States and
the South are concentrated in St. Louis and
Kansas City, Mo.; Kansas City, Kans.; and
Atlanta, Ga. The Los Angeles industrial area
is not only the leading automobile manufac­
turing center in the Pacific Coast region, but
it is second only to Detroit in the number of
motor vehicles assembled. Oakland is also an
automobile manufacturing center in California.
The growth of automobile centers in various
parts of the country reflects the leading auto­
mobile manufacturers’ policy of building as­
sembly plants in the major market areas of

4

EMPLOYM ENT OUTLOOK IN THE AUTOMOBILE INDU STRY

the Nation to avoid the relatively higher
freight charges made on completely assembled
vehicles. Unassembled parts are packed and
shipped more compactly than the whole car.
For example, only 4 completely assembled auto­
mobiles can be loaded on a freight car; but
unassembled, the equivalent of 40 automobiles

can be shipped in 1 car. The branch plants
receive and assemble these many parts and
distribute the automobiles in their respective
areas more economically. Based on estimates
published in 1950,2 $46.00 a car was saved by
shipping the parts from Detroit and assembling
the car in New Jersey.

How Automobiles Are Made

One look at the intricate mechanism inside
a modern motor is convincing proof that its en­
gineering represents a triumph for the indus­
trial era in which we live. To visualize the
complexity of automotive manufacture, how­
ever, the engineering feat of making one car
must be multiplied by the production of several
million motor vehicles within the course of a
year. A single automobile or truck requires
the putting together of some 16,000 separate
parts, all of which must conform to rigid spec­
ifications. The size of a part often must be
controlled to limits measured in thousandths of
an inch. Despite the number of parts and the
accuracy of their size, in many plants through­
out the United States automobiles are driven
off assembly lines at rates exceeding one per
minute.
This amazing record is possible because cer­
tain mass-production techniques are used. The
making of automobiles is one of the best ex­
amples of American manufacturing methods.
The mass-production system is characterized
by the manufacture of thousands of identical
parts which are completely interchangeable.
Parts are carried by moving belts or conveyors
to work stations nearest the point where they
are to be used. The workers then join these
parts or assemble them, performing only a
limited number of operations on each unit.
Extensive preliminary planning and organiza­
tion of every minute detail of the entire pro­
ductive process is necessary.
Motor vehicles are produced in three major
stages. The first stage is the preliminary plan­
ning and engineering before new model produc­
tion is begun, the second is the production of
motor vehicle parts, and the third is the final
assembly of these parts into completed vehicles.



Planning for New Model Production

Preparation for the production of a new
model usually requires 1 to 5 years of research
and development. The major automobile pro­
ducers maintain research laboratories and tech­
nical staffs who constantly test present models,
devise changes, and study theoretical problems
which eventually will result in mechanical im­
provement in some part of the vehicles. Plans
for new designs of automobile models are made

Modelmakers prepare small-scale clay models as one step in the
design of a new model of an automobile.

by engineers, body stylists, and fabric de­
signers. Public opinion testers are constantly
gathering information concerning the demands
of the automobile-buying public, and the de­
signers and engineers are always trying to
- Alderfer, E. B., and Michl, H. E., Economics of American In­
dustry, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1950, p. 105.

HOW AUTOMOBILES ARE MADE

translate these wants into designs that are ac­
ceptable to most of the public. Separate plans
are incorporated into several small-scale clay
models which are studied by company officials.
An initial decision is made on one of these clay
models and a new style may be on its way.
The side view of the selected clay model may
be transferred, full size, to a blackboard for a
discussion of the many small details of styling.
After the details have been decided, a fullscale clay model is created. Clay is used because
of the ease in altering surface lines until agree­
ment on final styling is reached. From the clay
models, full-scale replicas of the major sec­
tions of the car are either made in solid ma­
hogany or cast in plaster. From these, the
master dies are made. While this exacting
process is going on, a full-sized model in wood

is being constructed with inferior and exterior
parts exactly as wanted. Changes in seating
capacity, interior styling, and upholstery are
made at this time. Plaster casts are also made
of many special equipment items such as head­
lights. These casts, as well as the replicas of
the other parts of the car, are used to build
parts for the first few handmade running
models.
The introduction of a new mechanical im­
provement in a motor vehicle must be balanced
against the estimated cost of producing it. Sev­
eral alternate methods of manufacturing the
new improvement are studied, and costs are
compared. The part of subassembly may be
produced by the motor vehicle manufacturer, or
an outside supplier may be asked to bid on pro­
ducing the newly designed part or subassembly.

When a new model of an automobile is about to be put into production, engineers use small-scale models of men, machinery, and
materials in planning the new plant layout.




5

6

EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK IN THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY

In addition to metal, motor vehicle parts are
Throughout the planning stage, automotive
parts companies work closely with the motor made from a wide variety of other materials,
vehicle manufacturer on designing, engineer­ such as glass, rubber, plastic, and fabric. Most
parts, however, are made from one of the three
ing, and tooling problems.
metals—steel, copper,
aluminum.
A schedule is drawn up showing the “make- basicautomobile industry is oneand the Nation’s
The
of
ready” time necessary to prepare the plant for
new model production, and also the time re­ principal consumers of these metals.
quired for suppliers to order and install new
Metal parts for motor vehicles are shaped in
machine tools and be ready to start deliveries. several ways depending upon the purpose for
Plans for model changeover require a de­ which the part is to be used, the metal from
tailed study of the factory layout in order to which it is made, and its size. The principal
provide for efficient placement of new machines metal shapes from which parts are made are
and for a continuous flow of materials and castings, forgings, sheets, and bars. Castings
parts. Scale models of the plant, machines, are made in foundries where molten metal is
and work stations are made to show every poured into molds and allowed to cool and
detail of the factory building in miniature. harden into the desired shape. Forge shops also
Any bottlenecks that might possibly develop shape metal by heating and pounding it into
in the operations of a plant are ironed out at shape. Sheet and bar steel used for the body
this point. Balanced final assembly line opera­ and frame of the car are obtained from steel
tions depend upon an even flow of parts and rolling mills.
subassemblies.
Most of the large automobile companies and
When a changeover is made, specialized ma­ many parts companies have their own foundry
chine tools used by the automotive industry departments where metal castings are made.
must be retooled. Although a large number of These foundries specialize in producing large
the machine tools already in the plant may be quantities of identical castings for such parts
utilized for new model production, they will of the vehicle as the engine block. To make a
probably have to be reequipped with new cut­ casting, a wood or metal pattern, shaped to
ting tools and dies, and the fixtures and jigs the desired specifications of the casting, is first
which hold the work to be machined may have made. A sand mixture is prepared, then packed
to be replaced. New gages to check dimensions and rammed about the pattern. Any hollow
of parts for the new model will be required also. space desired in the casting must be carefully
shaped by the use of “cores” placed in
As new machine tools are received, they are mold. When the mold is complete, thethe sand
pattern
tested and installed in accordance with the is removed and molten metal is poured into the
scale model of the factory layout. As the date
and allowed cool. The
mold is
for introducing the new model nears, produc­ mold shaken off, andtoexcess metal sand sand are
then
and
tion departments along the assembly line must
the casting. Machines for mak­
be closed down for a short period. While the removed from castings are used in many of the
ing molds for
new machinery is being installed and tested, foundries operated by motor vehicle companies.
other machines are being retooled and conveyor
and power lines are being changed.
Forge shops make rough metal parts, but by
a different process. Forging is similar to the
work of the oldtime blacksmith. The metal is
Making Automobile Parts
heated and then pounded into the desired form.
Most automotive plants never manufacture In a modern forge shop the pounding is done
a complete car or truck. They specialize in by mechanical steam hammers of great pres­
producing one particular part, such as pistons sure. Such shaping produces metal capable of
or bearings, or in making one of the major withstanding great stress. Forgings are there­
motor vehicle subassemblies, such as bodies or fore used to make such parts as the axle and
axles.
crankshaft of the car.



HOW AUTOMOBILES ARE MADE

M any body parts are formed by large presses which stamp them out of sheet steel.

The large sections of the body of the car are
formed from sheet steel shaped by huge elec­
tronically controlled presses. Smaller parts
of the vehicle are also stamped or pressed out
of sheet steel or aluminum.
Metal parts usually require some machining
before they are assembled. Machining is a
process of cutting or chipping away metal from
a part by the use of a machine tool. A machine
tool shapes metal by holding the part against
the tool so that metal is cut or shaved from the
part. There are many types of machine tools.
Among the more common types are the engine
lathe and turret lathe in which the metal part
to be cut is rotated against the cutting tool;
boring and drilling machines which make holes
in metal parts; grinding machines which have
abrasive wheels that remove metal from the
part; milling machines which shape the part
with a saw-toothed tool; and planers and shapers
which plane the flat surfaces of the part. These
tools are set up to operate with great precision;
many are electronically controlled and can per­
form a series of machining operations auto­
matically. For example, in one large motor ve­
hicle plant, engine blocks are made from rough
castings by a machine that automatically per­
forms almost every type of machining opera­
tion and makes 157 holes in the engine block
before the cycle of operations is complete. No



7

handling of the block is required throughout
the entire cycle.
Inspection throughout the manufacturing
process insures that the quality of the as­
sembled vehicle will meet the established
standards of performance. Such inspection be­
gins with a spot check of incoming raw ma­
terials from which parts are to be made. All
machining operations require careful inspec­
tion to detect tool wear so that the parts pro­
duced will not vary gradually from the specified
limits. Many of the parts, if they varied by as
much as a thousandth of an inch, would not
function properly in the finished vehicle or
would slow the assembly operation. In mass
production, manufactured parts must be iden­
tical if they are to be interchangeable. Specially
designed gages are used to measure the ac­
curacy of machining operations.
Many metal parts must be painted or given
some other finish to make them rustproof.
They are hung on conveyors, pass through
paint spray booths, and move on through dry­
ing ovens. These ovens look like tunnels and
are lined with infrared lights which bake in
the finish or the paint as the part travels
through the oven.
Body plants which produce complete bodies
for motor vehicles are usually located near the
H ighly automatic machine tools are used in making automobiles. Here one
man operates a ten-station transfer drilling machine which can bore 134
holes at once.

8

EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK IN THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY

A painter spraying fenders. Conveyors carry the painted parts through
an oven where they are baked with infrared radiation.

final assembly plants. The large parts of the
motor vehicle body are formed on huge presses
from sheet steel. The assembly operations in
body production include the welding together of
many separate parts of the body and the in­
stallation of the instrument panel and electrical
wiring. Body assembly is not entirely a metal­
working operation. One department of the
body plant is devoted to the preparation of
upholstery. The body building process includes
cutting and sewing of upholstery for the seats
and cushions of the motor vehicle, and prepar­
ing and installing the fabric headliners and
door panels.
Production on the Final Assembly Line

From the observer’s viewpoint, the most
dramatic part of the manufacture of the motor
vehicle is on the final assembly line, which is
the process of putting together a number of
subassemblies and individual parts in sequence
with the complete vehicle rolling off the line
at the end. The assembly line itself resembles
the movement of an escalator except that the
line moves forward at floor level rather than
upward. Meanwhile, overhead conveyors bring
the various subassemblies and parts of the
motor vehicle to the final assembly line at the



point where the part is needed. In conjunction
with these conveyors, overhead wires feed elec­
tric power to portable motorized tools, such as
power screwdrivers and wrenches, which are
suspended by spring cables within the worker’s
reach.
Generally, the assembly of a car starts with
the frame which forms the foundation of the
car and all other units are attached to it. Auto­
mobile frames are made of pressed steel with
the deepest and strongest section at the center
where the greatest stress occurs. Cross mem­
bers are next added to the frame so that it
looks like an X.
A few feet farther down the line, forward
brackets are attached to the frame and then the
front suspension assembly which includes front
wheel spindles and springs, shock absorbers,
wheel hubs, and bearings. Rear springs and
rear shock absorbers are next added, and then
the rear axle to which gears, bearings, and
brakes have already been attached. Each of
these subassemblies is fastened to the rapidly
emerging chassis of the car.
A complete engine is lowered by crane into
position on the chassis as it comes down the
line. The steering column (including the gears)
and the steering wheel are fastened to the
chassis and brake fluid is added. Many of the
essentials of the vehicle are in place within
approximately half an hour after the first
frame units have been placed on the assembly
line.
The first indication of the color of the com­
pleted vehicle comes with the addition of
wheels, complete with tires, which are now
added to the chassis of the car. The radiator
and battery are next added and a mechanical
device measures proper alinement to receive
the body of the car. Padded hooks grasp the
body of the car, which is lowered by a crane or
“dropped” from overhead, meeting the chassis
on the assembly line below. The front-end as­
sembly—fenders, hood, and grill—and the
headlights, bumpers, hubcaps, and floor mats
are now added. At the end of the line the head­
lights are adjusted, wheels are alined, gasoline
is pumped into the fuel tank, and another new
mofor vehicle is driven off the assembly line
under its own power. The finished car is thor­

JOBS IN THE INDUSTRY

oughly inspected before it leaves the factory.
As the many chassis move down the assembly
line hour after hour, “banks” of materials lo­
cated in aisles along the line are continually
fed by a careful system of scheduling. This
process insures a steady supply of parts to feed
the final assembly line and reduces the amount
of factory space which otherwise would be
used for storage.
Trucks and passenger cars are usually built on
separate assembly lines. There are more model
variations in trucks than in passenger cars.
Exact information for each vehicle is furnished
to stations along the assembly line so that the
desired specifications of the customer will be
built into it. Subassemblies conforming to
these specifications are forwarded to the as­

9

sembly line in the proper sequence. Several
methods of synchronizing assembly line and
subassembly activities are used. For each truck
a record is made and copies then forwarded to
each station along the assembly line. The record
shows by code the items to be included. On the
passenger-car assembly line, the sequence of
the models to be built may be transmitted to
the various stations along the line by either
teletype or telautograph. The information on
color and on the special equipment desired in
each car is obtained from car orders placed by
automobile dealers. By this scheduling pro­
gram, cars of different colors and types follow
each other down the assembly line—a dark blue
coupe may be followed by a maroon station
wagon.

Jobs in the Industry

Persons interested in working in the auto­
mobile industry should inquire about the vari­
ous types of jobs. Every motor vehicle repre­
sents the combined efforts of thousands of
workers in a great number of different occu­
pations. Some of these workers are employed
in technical and professional jobs, such as en­
gineers, chemists, metallurgists, or draftsmen.
They work on problems of research and devel­
opment of new automobile designs or in testing
present models. While these technical person­
nel are ironing out the kinks of future model
cars, purchasing agents are busy buying the
steel, rubber, glass, and other materials to be
converted into parts for the finished car.
The factory production related workers make
up more than 80 percent of the employees in the
automobile industry. These workers carry out
the ideas of the professional and technical per­
sonnel by transforming the raw materials into
the completed car. The largest single group
are the assemblers who join the thousands of
parts of which a motor vehicle is composed
(chart 1). A large portion are employed in
metalworking occupations like machine tool
operators, tool and die makers, welders, or
work in some foundry or forge shop job.
Another large group of the factory workers are
engaged in assembly and inspection jobs. In­



spectors are employed at every stage of the as­
sembly operation, both in plants making
automobile parts and in those producing com­
plete vehicles.

EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK IN THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY

10
T able

2.— E s t im a t e d n u m b e r o f w o r k e r s i n s e le c te d
p la n t o c c u p a tio n s i n th e m o to r v e h ic le i n d u s t r y ,
f o u r t h q u a r t e r 1952

,

Occupation and department
Number of workers
117,000
Assemblers
Forge department:
1,200
Hammermen and upsetters___
1,600
Heaters___________________
1,800
Straightening press operators. ..
Foundry department:
1,800
Chippers and grinders_______
3,500
Coremakers. __-------------------2,200
Molders, machine----------------1,100
Patternmakers--------------------26,000
Inspectors and testers----------------Machine tool operators, production:
19,000
Drill press____ _____ _______
2.300
Gear cutter--------------- --------9.600
Grinder----------------------------10,400
Lathe-------- ----------------------5.100
Milling machine------------------3,000
Screw machine, automatic____
Maintenance department:
1,400
Carpenters------------------------6.300
Electricians-----------------------14,-400
Janitors and sweepers________
8.100
Mechanics, maintenance--------6.600
Millwrights________________
3.300
Pipefitters and plumbers_____
Materials control:
6.300
Checkers, receiving and shipping.
5,600
Stock chasers_______________
3.300
Tool-crib attendants__________
Materials movement:
2,000
Crane operators_____________
7,500
Craters, packers, boxers, sawyers.
21,000
Material handlers------------------2,800
Truck drivers_______________
9,000
Truckers, power-------------------11,400
Metal finishers__________________
Paint shop:
3,600
Polishers, lacquer or enamel___
4.500
Sanders, wet-----------------------7.500
Sprayers---------------------------40.000
Punch press operators----------------Tool and die department:
2,800
Cutter grinders_____________
2.500
Die tryout men------------------6,000
Machine operators__________
18.000
Tool and die makers_________
2,000
Tool and gage grinders_______
Upholstering department:
4,900
Sewing-machine operators------6,700
Trimmers, cushipn and back---2,400
Trimmers, headlining------- .----Welders:
8.500
Welders, arc and gas_________
15,500
Welders, gun, machine and spot.
Source: Estimated primarily from data included in Wage Structure: Motor Vehicles
and Parts, 1950, Bulletin No. 1015, U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor
Statistics.

Still other factory workers are connected
with the movement of materials to the right
place at the right time so that there is a steady
flow of supplies. These workers check mate­
rials in the shipping and receiving rooms,
transport materials to other workers, or handle
materials from trucks. In addition to these
materials control workers, maintenance men
keep the many machines and equipment in
good working condition. Table 2 gives the
number of workers in some of the more im­
portant factory occupations in the automobile
industry.
Finally, there are many administrative and
clerical jobs dealing with the problems of qual­
ity control, personnel and payrolls, sales, and
advertising. About 11 percent of the industry's
working force are women. They are employed
largely in the administrative offices of auto­
mobile plants and in the less physically demand­
ing plant occupations, such as sewing-machine
operations, in light assembly work, and as auto­
mobile drivers.
The duties and training requirements of
some of the important occupations are briefly
described below. A more complete discussion
of many of these occupations may be found in
the Occupational Outlook Handbook.3 The
handbook contains information about other
industries in which these workers are employed,
the job prospects in those industries, and the
training and other qualifications required for
workers in these occupations.

Technical Occupations

Cars begin as ideas. Behind many of these
ideas are the engineers and designers. Much
thought goes into planning and research—plan­
ning the kind of car to make and searching for
ways and means of producing it. For these
purposes, the automobile industry employs a
large force of technical personnel, including
engineers, chemists, metallurgists, and physi­
cists. The en g in eers, numbering between 10,000 to 15,000, are the largest group of these
technical employees. It is the engineer in the
automobile industry who has been primarily
responsible for the major improvements in



today’s automobile. Shatterproof glass, all-steel
bodies, high compression motors, automatic
gear shifts, rustproof body finishes, and many
other new features are products of the en­
gineering team.
Several types of engineers find employment
in automobile firms. Heading the list are the
automotive, electrical, mechanical, and indus­
trial engineers. The a u to m o tive en gin eer, gen­

3 Occupational Outlook Handbook, U. S. Department of Labor,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bulletin No. 998, 1951 edition prepared in
cooperation with the Veterans Administration. For sale by the
Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office,
Washington 25, D. C. Price $3.

TECHNICAL OCCUPATIONS

erally considered to be in a branch of mechan­
ical engineering, designs, develops, or does
research work on the automobile body or en­
gine. He may work at a drawing board, design
pilot models of a car to be manufactured several
years in the future, or test and analyze a small
motor vehicle part such as a starter spring or
windshield wiper. The electrical engineer is
concerned with such activities and problems as
instrumentation and control, power generation
and distribution, electronics, test equipment,
and electrical apparatus and machinery. He is
engaged in the design and development of all
types of electrical and electronic machinery
and equipment as well as the operation, main­
tenance, and use of these items. The mechanical
engineer and the industrial engineer are pri­
marily engaged in the production stage in such
work as the design of new machinery or the
layout of plant equipment. Still other types of
engineers, including civil, chemical, safety,
and sales, are employed in the industry in a
wide variety of tasks.
Chemists and metallurgists are employed
mainly in the research and development units
of the individual motor vehicle companies.
Metallurgists and metallurgical engineers are
also found in the casting and heat treating de­
partments. For example, a metallurgist might
be employed to supervise the melting opera­
tions in the precision casting and forging de­
partments. A chemist may be employed to head
the testing and analytical laboratory. Physicists
and mathematicians are employed mainly in
the research departments where they work
with other technical personnel, such as en­
gineers and metallurgists. According to a sur­
vey of industrial research laboratories made
by the Research and Development Board in
1952,4 nearly 3,000 engineers and scientists
work as research personnel in the automobile
industry.
The industry employs a considerable number
of draftsmen who prepare working plans and
detailed drawings of automobile parts and as­
semblies. They work from sketches and speci­
fications furnished by the engineer or designer.
4 U . S. Departm ent of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics and De­
partment of Defense, Research and Development Board, Industrial
Research and Development — A Preliminary Report, January 1953.




11

There is a wide range of skill in this occupa­
tion. Some draftsmen do rough copying or
routine tracing work, whereas others at higher
levels of skill are often required to make calcu­
lations concerning the strength, quality, and
cost of materials, and to use engineering hand­
books and tables for computations.

Draftsmen prepare working plans and detailed drawings
automobile parts and assemblies.

of

Persons contemplating an engineering career
should rate well above average in mathematics
and science courses in high school. Graduation
from a recognized college is the minimum edu­
cational requirement for engineering or scien­
tific work. Most engineers and scientists have
a college education and the proportion with
advanced degrees is increasing. It is also im­
portant for prospective students to select a
properly accredited school because persons
trained at such schools generally have the best
employment opportunities.
Many automobile companies recruit engi­
neers and other technically trained personnel
by sending representatives to colleges and uni­
versities each year to interview graduating
students. Some companies have formal train­
ing programs in which the professional

12

EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK IN THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY

trainees are rotated through the various oper­
ating and maintenance divisions to give them
a broad picture of automobile manufacturing
before assigning them to a particular depart­
ment. In other companies, the newly hired en­
gineer or scientist is assigned directly to a
specific research, operating, or maintenance
unit. It is important to note that many of the

top executives in the industry have an engineer­
ing or scientific background.
Usually a person becomes a draftsman by
studying at a trade or vocational school and
later acquiring practical experience by serving
a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship, or by some other
type of on-the-job training plus part-time
schooling.

Plant Occupations
Metalworking Occupations

After the engineers and draftsmen have
planned and designed the new model car, some­
one must transfer these ideas into the com­
pleted car. First, the parts must be made. The
parts are principally metal and are shaped by
a variety of metalforming processes requiring
workers in a number of metalworking occupa­
tions. For example, bodies must be stamped
out by huge presses, cylinder blocks must be
cast in foundries, axles must be forged in the
forge shops, and pistons must be ground in
the machine shops. To understand exactly
what these metal operations entail, a descrip­
tion of the duties of some of the workers per­
forming these operations follows.
M ach in in g O ccu p ation s .—One of the largest
metalworking occupations in the automobile
industry is that of m ach in e tool o p era to r. A
machine tool is a power-driven machine which
firmly holds both the piece of metal to be cut
and a cutting instrument, or “tool,” and brings
them together so that the metal is cut, shaved,
ground, or drilled. Machine tool operators may
be divided into two main classes according to
their degree of skill. The skilled operator does
widely varying kinds of machining on all types
of machine tools. Working from blueprints or
layouts, he sets up his machine for each ma­
chining operation, selects the proper tools and
materials, adjusts the feed and speed controls,
and measures the finished work to see that it
meets specifications. He knows how to sharpen
cutting tools when they become dull and he
understands the machining qualities of various
metals.



However, the majority of machine tool oper­
ators in the automobile industry are much less
skilled than the machine tool specialist de­
scribed above and their work is repetitive
rather than varied. A typical job consists
mainly of placing rough metal stock into an
automatic machine tool, watching the machin­
ing operation for signs of trouble, and measur­
ing the finished work with specially prepared
gages which simplify measurement. The oper­
ator may make minor adjustments to keep the
machine tool in operation, but usually he must
depend upon skilled workers, such as setup
men or machine tool specialists, for major
adjustments.
Machine tool operators, skilled and semi­
skilled alike, are designated according to the
kinds of tools they operate, such as enginelathe operator, turret-lathe operator, drillingmachine operator, grinding-machine operator,
and milling-machine operator.
A skilled machine tool operator requires
from 1 to 3 years of on-the-job training. The
less skilled machine tool operators are gener­
ally trained on the job in not more than 6
months.
An important person in automobile produc­
tion is the tool an d die m a k er who is one of
the most skilled plant workers found in this
industry. The toolmaker makes the jigs, fix­
tures, and other accessories that hold the work
while it is being machined. He also makes the
gages and other measuring devices needed for
precision work. Diemakers construct the dies
which are used in such metalforming opera­
tions as forging, stamping, and pressing. The
tool and die maker must know how to read
blueprints, set up and operate machine tools,

13
PLANT OCCUPATIONS
use precision measuring instruments, under­ shakeout men and sent to the cleaning and fin­
stand the working properties of common metals ishing department. Sandblasters and tumbler
and alloys, and make shop computations. In operators run the various kinds of cleaning
addition, he must work to very close tolerances equipment. Chippers and grinders remove ex­

and do precision handwork. This work re­
quires rounded and varied machine shop ex­
perience usually obtained through formal ap­
prenticeship or its equivalent in other types
of on-the-job training. A tool and die appren­
ticeship ordinarily covers 4 or 5 years, including
shop training in the various parts of the job.
In addition, during the appenticeship, courses
such as shop arithmetic and blueprint reading
are usually given in vocational schools. After
apprenticeship it is often necessary to work
for a number of years as a journeyman in
order to qualify for the more difficult tool and
die work. Since tool and die making is the
most exacting type of machine shop work, per­
sons planning to enter the trade should have a
great deal of mechanical ability and a liking
for painstaking work.

Foundry Occupations.—Some parts of the
automobile must be made in the foundry de­
partments which make castings for such units
as engine blocks by pouring molten metal into
a mold and then allowing the metal to harden
and take the shape of the mold.
The first step in casting is for the pattern­
maker to make a wood or metal pattern in the
shape of the final casting desired. Sandmixers
prepare sand for use in molding and coremak­
ing. Hand molders make the sand mold into
which metal is poured. The molds are made by
packing and ramming sand around the pat­
terns. Machine molders operate one of several
types of machines which simplify and speed the
making of large quantities of identical sand
molds. Coremakers shape the bodies of sand,
or “cores,” which are placed inside molds in
order to form any hollow spaces needed in
castings.
When the mold is made and the cores (if
any) are put inside, the molten metal is poured
into the mold. A melter operates a furnace used
to melt metal for castings. The actual pouring
is customarily done by a pour'er. When the
casting cools off, it is taken out of the mold by



cess metal and finish castings.
Patternmakers, hand molders, hand core­
makers, and the more difficult types of ma­
chine-molding jobs are generally learned
through an apprenticeship, usually lasting 4
years. The less skilled machine-molding jobs
and many of the other foundry jobs may be
learned in a few months of on-the-job training.

Patternmaking is the first step in the sand casting process. Here a highly
skilled patternmaker is constructing a wood pattern in the shape of the part
desired.

Forging Occupations. — The forging process

shapes metal objects which are required to
withstand great stress, such as automobile
crankshafts and axles. These objects are
formed by machines which pound and squeeze
heated metal into the desired shapes just as the
oldtime blacksmith used to do, but now machine
power is substituted for the blacksmith’s arm,
and dies take the place of the anvil and ham­
mer. Jobs in forge shops vary. Many have
to do with operating the forging hammers and
presses which are usually run by crews of 2 or
more and sometimes by as many as 10 or 15
men.

14

EMPLOYM ENT OUTLOOK IN THE AUTOMOBILE IND U STR Y

For example, a hammerman operates a drophammer which pounds metal into various
shapes between closed dies. He places a steel
bar between the dies and forges to the required
shape by striking the steel with a steam ham­
mer. The hammerman is assisted by a heater
who heats the stock in a furnace to prepare it
for forging and then passes the stock to the
hammerman. Forge shop workers include
many men engaged in cleaning, finishing, heat
treating, or inspecting forgings, as well as
laborers employed mainly in moving materials.

Forging is used to shape metal objects which are required to withstand
great stresses, such as automobile crankshafts.

For these jobs workers need the strength
and endurance required for heavy lifting and
for withstanding the noise, heat, and vibration
typical of forge shops. The job of hammerman,
one of the highest paid plant jobs, is filled by
promotion from men already on the crew. A
man generally starts as a helper on a hammer
crew and by advancement over a period of
several years, he may become first a heater
and later a hammerman.



Other Metalworking Occupations .—The auto­
mobile industry employs large numbers of
workers in other metalworking occupations.
Included among these are the punch press oper­
ators who numbered 40,000 in late 1952. These
workers operate and maintain the power-driven
presses varying in size from small presses
which blank out door handles to the massive
presses which form, trim, and press holes in
the doors and body panels. Depending on the
size of the machine and the material to be
processed, an operator may work at his ma­
chine alone or with the assistance of other
workers.
Automobile plants also employed about
24,000 of the various types of welders, who
may be divided into 2 groups according to the
type of equipment used. The more skilled
welders, numbering 8,500, operate electric arc
and gas welding equipment. In this type of
welding, metal parts are joined through the
application of heat intense enough to melt the
edges to be joined. The skilled welder controls
the melting by properly directing the heat and
adding filler metal where necessary to com­
plete the joint. A course in welding methods,
usually in public or private vocational schools
followed by extensive job experience, has been
the common way for skilled arc and gas weld­
ers to receive their training. Welders doing
the simplest repetitive types of arc and gas
welding are trained on the job without special
instructions in about 6 months.
About 15,500 welders are in the less skilled
jobs of operating gun and spot welding equip­
ment. These electrically controlled machines
fuse metal parts by bringing them together
under heat and pressure. The metal pieces to
be joined are pressed between two electrodes
through which electric current is passing. The
parts being welded offer sufficient resistance to
the flow of current to create intense heat which,
with the pressure, fuses them together.
Usually, the supervisor sets the controls of the
machine for the desired electric current and
pressure whereas the operator merely feeds
and alines the work, starts the machine, and
then removes the work when it is finished. Most
gun and spot welders learn their work on the
job in a relatively short time.

PLANT OCCUPATIONS
Assembling Occupations

The final stage of the mass-production tech­
nique of automobile manufacturing is putting
together parts into units. As these parts are
finished or brought in from other plants, they
are transported by belts, trucks, or overhead
conveyors to different subassembly lines within
the factory. Each subassembly line is a unit
within itself. For instance, all the parts for
the engine go to the line that assembles only
engines. This is true for such units as the body,
front and rear axles, wheels, and frame. As
these units are completed, they are transported
to the final assembly line at designated points
where they are assembled in their proper se­
quence into the final car.
Assemblers make up the largest occupational
group in the automobile industry; they com­
prise more than 13 percent of the production
workers. About 117,000 assemblers were em­
ployed in the automobile industry in late 1952.
Bench assemblers put together small units or
subassemblies while working at a bench. They
usually work in parts plants or on subassembly
Many of the assembly operations are split into specialized jobs.




15

lines of the larger automobile manufacturers.
Other assemblers may rivet and screw to­
gether parts of the chassis as it moves down the
final assembly line or they may join the body
and chassis together.
“Repetitive” is the word that most aptly
describes assembly jobs. It is here that division
of labor is carried to its extreme degree. Each
worker has one or a few operations to perform
on a part of the car. He may stand as he joins
a fender to the hood of the car, or he may walk
beside the car as he places bolts on the frame.
But no matter what particular task he per­
forms, he must do each operation as many as
60 times an hour to keep up with the assembly
conveyor which is geared to that speed.
Manual dexterity and patience with repeti­
tive tasks are the two necessary requirements
for assembly operations because the worker
must be fast on his job and must do the same
operation repeatedly. New workers are usually
trained for the less skilled jobs in a few days
of on-the-job training experience. Workers with
machine shop experience are often chosen for
the more skilled assembling jobs.

Here a wheel and tire merry-go-round rotates slowly as each worker performs a single task.

16

EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK IN THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY

Inspection Occupations

Another large and important group of auto­
mobile workers are the inspectors whose chief
duties are to examine completed units and subassemblies or to measure the accuracy of ma­
chined parts. Nearly 26,000 i?ispectors and
testers were employed in automobile plants in
late 1952. In parts plants, inspectors check
dimensions of parts by using specially designed
gages and other measuring instruments which
speed and simplify the inspection process.
Other inspectors check the correctness of the
many assembly operations throughout various
subassembly stages and on the final assembly
line. A few more specialized inspection jobs
are held by skilled inspectors who test raw
materials or the operation of parts of completed
vehicles under experimental conditions. Most
of this testing, however, is done by professional
workers such as engineers, chemists, or metal­
lurgists ; but less skilled workers often assist
them in the laboratories and on experimental
testing grounds.
Engine assembly and inspection line.




Several thousand women are employed as sewing machine operators in
the upholstery departments of automobile plants.

Frequently, assemblers who show special
aptitude are promoted to inspectors. However,
inexperienced workers may be hired for some
of the less skilled inspectors’ jobs and given a
brief period of on-the-job training.
Finishing Occupations

Before a car goes off the assembly line, many
finishing operations must be performed. The
metal surfaces must be readied for finishing,
the exteriors painted, the interiors covered, the
seats upholstered, and, finally, the finished
product must undergo a thorough inspection.
Among those employed in the finishing depart­
ments are metal finishers, platers, sprayers,
polishers, sanders, cutters, sewing-machine
operators, and upholsterers. Metal finishers
remove surface irregularities of metal parts in
preparation for painting. They file and polish
rough surface areas to a smooth finish. Platers
electroplate automobile bumpers and “hard­
ware” for ornamentation and protection against
corrosion. Sprayers operate spray guns to ap­
ply paint or other finishes to the metal parts.

ADM INISTRATIVE AND OFFICE OCCUPATIONS

polish the finished surfaces by hand
or by a portable motor-driven buffing wheel.
Cutters, sewing-machine operators, and up­
holsterers combine their skills to provide com­
fortable and attractive interiors. The c u tte r
cuts material to the proper length and width
according to a pattern. The sew in g -m a ch in e
o p e ra to r , using a power-driven machine, sews
together the upholstery sections after they
have been cut to size. U p h o lsterers arrange and
fasten springs and padding for the seats and
backs, and tack the covering material in place.
P o lish ers

Material Movement and Maintenance
Occupations

A large number of workers is required in
automobile plants to maintain and to repair the
great amounts of machinery and equipment,
to move materials and supplies, and to perform
a variety of other maintenance and service
operations.
Production of motor vehicles by the assembly
line process requires an elaborate system of
material movement to feed the assembly lines
adequately and to remove finished products.
In 1952, about 42,000 workers were employed
in moving materials in automobile and auto­
mobile parts plants. Some workers drive trac­
tors or trucks, delivering parts or subassem­
blies to the various stations on the assembly
line or moving materials between plants or to
and from shipping stations. M a teria l h an dlers
load and unload material from trucks or in and
out of containers. Other workers, such as
ch eck ers , to ol-crib a tte n d a n ts , and sto ck ch as­
e rs , coordinate the delivery of parts to the
proper location on the assembly line; check,

17

receive, and distribute m aterials; and keep
records of incoming and outgoing shipments.
Some 15,000 workers were employed in mate­
rials control jobs in late 1952.
Among the important maintenance workers
in automobile plants are m illw r ig h ts who in­
stall and maintain mechanical equipment. They
dismantle machinery and replace defective
parts. One of their important functions is to
set up new machinery and equipment. Several
thousand electricia n s keep the wiring, motors,
switches, and other electrical equipment in
good operating condition, and make repairs
when equipment breaks down. With a definite
trend towards more automatic machinery, in­
creasing numbers of workers are being used
to maintain electronic and hydraulic equip­
ment. P lu m b ers and p ip e fitte rs lay out, install,
and repair piping, valves, pumps, and com­
pressors. M a ch in ery re p a irm e n diagnose trou­
ble in various types of machinery. They adjust,
repair, and assemble machinery. Other main­
tenance and service workers found in automo­
bile plants include c a rp e n te rs , sh eet-m eta l
w o rk e rs , cran e o p e ra to rs , and ja n ito r s .
Experienced craftsmen, such as millwrights,
plumbers, pipefitters, sheet-metal workers, and
electricians, who have acquired their skills else­
where, are sometimes hired directly by auto­
mobile companies. Most automobile plants
conduct some type of apprentice training pro­
gram to meet the needs of their maintenance
shops. The apprenticeship programs usually
cover 3 or 4 years, and include, mainly, shop
training in various parts of the particular jobs.
In addition, classroom instruction in related
technical subjects is generally given either in
the plant or in local vocational schools.

Administrative and Office Occupations

The plant workers’ contribution to the mak­
ing of the automobile has already been noted.
But what goes on behind the scenes? Who
keeps the records of parts, shipments, per­
sonnel, and sales? Who determines what and
how much to buy? Who keeps production run­
ning smoothly? More than 150,000 of the in­
dustry’s workers have administrative, sales,



professional, technical, supervisory, and cleri­
cal jobs. The vital role played by engineers,
metallurgists, tool designers, draftsmen, and
other professional and technical personnel has
already been described. The administrative
field, also, provides opportunity for many men
and women in interesting and important jobs.
For the most part, persons now employed

18

EM PLOYM ENT OUTLOOK IN THE AUTOMOBILE IND U STR Y

in the administrative positions in the automo­
bile industry have not been trained specifically
for any particular industry. Automobile com­
panies recruit persons for administrative jobs
by sending representatives to colleges and
universities to interview graduating students.
Many of the higher rated jobs are filled by pro­
motions from within. Engineers and other
specialized personnel are often used for top
managerial positions. More and more collegetrained persons, especially those with degrees
in business administration, are being trained
for administrative jobs in automobile com­
panies. Many of these people have specialized
in a particular administrative field, such as
marketing, labor relations or personnel, or ac­
counting and finance work. Now let’s take a
look at some of the administrative positions.
At the top of the administrative field are
many persons in executive positions who are
called upon to make policy decisions for their
firms. These executives are continually re­
quired to decide how many vehicles to produce,
what styles to make, which parts the company
should produce and which to buy, how best to
locate plants and equipment, and how best to
coordinate production processes. To properly
make such decisions, a large body of specialized
personnel is needed.
The comptroller is the source for some im­
portant policy decisions such as those noted
above. Because he is the company’s chief ac­
counting officer, he directs the entire accounting
program. The services of many accountants,
bookkeepers, and clerks are required to main­
tain the essential and complicated recordkeep­
ing system needed by automobile firms. A c ­
co u n ta n ts establish and direct accounting pro­
cedures and recordkeeping systems. They audit
the records kept by bookkeepers and clerks,
analyze costs, and do tax accounting. B o ok­
k eep ers keep complete and systematic sets of
records of business transactions. Much of the
work is performed on bookkeeping machines,
calculators, and adding machines. C lerk s file
records, attend to the mail, and make relatively
simple calculations on business machines.



M a rk et a n a ly sts , eco n o m ists , and s ta tis ti­
cians collect, analyze, and interpret information

for use in production planning and for guiding
sales operations. They provide forecasts of
market conditions and sales potentials. They
study consumer buying habits and forecast
consumer acceptance of new styles.
The sales department, working under a sales
ex ecu tive and in conjunction with a d v e rtisin g
p erso n n el , stimulates demand for products of
the company. It is the responsibility of the
sales department to make all arrangements
with the company’s automobile dealers through­
out the country. The sales department usually
has a service section which performs such func­
tions as the training of dealers’ mechanics.
Many of the large automobile companies have
sales offices located in all regions of the country.
The p u rch a sin g department must line up
sources from which raw materials, finished
parts, and equipment needed in the production
process can be obtained regularly. Specialists
in the purchasing department are needed to buy
different kinds of materials, machines, and
tools. They must be acquainted with the best
available sources and trade conditions. They
also must be good judges of value and quality
and know the capacity of suppliers to meet
their firm’s demands. It takes well-trained per­
sonnel to buy wisely and thus protect the qual­
ity of the finished product.
A legal sta ff advises management as to legal
rights and obligations under existing laws.
Lawyers represent their companies in court or
before semi judicial or administrative agencies
of the Government. They also draw up legal
documents and do other legal work as required.
A few d o cto rs and n u rses also are needed to
care for the health of the industry’s workers
while on the job.
Because manpower is a vital factor in the
production process, a well-trained and organ­
ized in d u stria l rela tio n s sta ff is required. Labor
policies are analyzed and recommendations are
made to top management. This staff also
handles the many problems which arise in the
day-to-day administration of union-manage­
ment agreements. Trained p erso n n el w o rk e rs

EARNING S AND WORKING CONDITIONS

are needed to plan and assist in the recruiting,
training, and rating of employees. They main­
tain personnel records, classify jobs, engage in
employee counseling, and participate in the
operation of established health, safety, and re­
tirement systems.

19

The industry employs thousands of other
“white collar” workers to help the specialized
workers described above. Included among these
are secretaries, stenographers, clerks and typ­
ists, and business-machine operators. A large
proportion of the office workers are women.

Earnings and Working Conditions

Anyone interested in working in the auto­
mobile industry would like to know the pay he
would earn and what kind of working condi­
tions he might expect. Of course, the amount
of earnings a person would get depends on
what type of job he held. Earnings, in general,
in the automobile industry are higher than in
other manufacturing industries. Current data
on earnings for the professional, technical, and
administrative jobs are unavailable. Much
more information is available for plant
workers, however.
Earnings

In January 1953, the average hourly earn­
ings for production workers in the automobile
industry were $2.08, 35 cen^s more than the
all-manufacturing average of $1.73. At that
time, production workers in automobile plants
earned an average of $85,90 for a workweek of
41.3 hours. This compares with the average
earnings in all-manufacturing industries of
$70.93 for a workweek of 41 hours.
However, pay rates vary considerably in the
industry because of the great range in occupa­
tions and levels of skill.5 This is reflected in a
comprehensive survey of wages and related
benefits in the automobile manufacturing in­
dustry undertaken early in 1950 by the Bureau
of Labor Statistics. Table 3 summarizes some
of the information collected in this study. The
average straight-time hourly earnings for a
number of the important plant occupations are
given for several types of motor vehicle and

parts plants. From the time this survey was
undertaken in February of 1950 until the end
of 1952, workers in the automobile plants have
received general increases in wages totaling
32 or 33 cents per hour,6 under the terms of
the contracts between the major automobile
manufacturers and the International Union,
United Automobile, Aircraft, and Agricultural
Implement Workers of America (CIO), to
which union a very large proportion of auto­
mobile workers belong.
Generally, automobile contracts provide over­
time pay for work in excess of 8 hours per day,
or 40 hours per week, and premium pay for
work on the night shift, in addition to double
time for work on Sundays and holidays, and
time and a half for the sixth day of the em­
ployee’s workweek. Workers in plants of the
major motor vehicle companies now have 6
paid holidays throughout the year, and periods
of annual vacation which vary according to
length of service, generally ranging from 1 to 3
weeks.
Other Employee Benefits

In addition to these provisions which affect
the pay envelope directly, other benefits for the
worker are provided for in most contracts.
Many workers are covered by group insurance
plans which usually include life insurance, ac­
cidental death and dismemberment benefits,
weekly accident and sickness payments in case
of temporary disability, hospitalization, and
surgical and medical benefits. Often workers’

6 These hourly increases were the result of two separate contract
provisions. Twelve cents of the total increase was based on the
5 Passenger car companies generally pay on a straight-time hourly provision for an annual improvement factor. The remainder was
basis. Only 2 such companies were using an incentive pay system in
the result of several cost-of-living adjustments made at the end of
early 1950. In the parts and truck branches, on the other hand,
each quarter. They were based upon changes in the cost of living
almost half of the workers were in plants using incentive pay
during the previous period as measured by the Consumers’ Price
Index of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
systems.



EM PLOYM ENT OUTLOOK IN THE AUTOMOBILE IN D U STR Y

20

Table 3 .—

A v e r a g e s t r a ig h t -t im e h o u r ly e a r n in g s 1 f o r se le c te d o c c u p a tio n s i n th e a u to m o b ile i n d u s t r y , b y ty p e o f
p l a n t , U n it e d S ta te s , F e b r u a r y - A p r i l 1950

Type of plant
Occupation
Metalworking occupations
Machining occupations:
Die tryout men____________ __ _ - _ __ __

Passengercar

Truck

Body and
body parts

Lathe operators, crankshaft___________ ___
__ _____ _ ___ _
Milling-machine operators, heavy or special____ ___ ___ __ _ ____ ____
__ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Milling-machine operators, class C___________________
Punch-press operators, heavy double-crank or toggle ___ ___ ___ _________
Punch-press operators, small crank___________ _________ __________ _ ____
Screw-machine operators, automatic__________ __ _______ ____ ____ _ __
Screw-machine operators, automatic, class A__ _________ ___ __ _________
Screw-machine operators, automatic, class C______ _ _ . _ ____ _ _ _ _ _ _
Toolmakers (excluding leaders)___________ ___
___ _
__ _ ___
Foundry occupations:
Coremakers, light, blow machine and hand__
_____ _ _
Machine molders___________________ _ _ ____
_ _ ____ _
Patternmakers, bench, wood______ _ __ _ _____ __ __
______
Forging occupations:
_ _ _________
Hammermen, steam, medium____ _ ____ _____ __
Heaters for hammermen, steam__ __ _ __
_______ _______ ________
Upsetters-- _ _______________ _____
__ _ __ _ _ _ _ __________
Other metalworking occupations:
Welders, arc and gas_____ _
____
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _______
Welders,gun______ __ _ _ _ _______ _______ _____ ___ _____
Welders, spot ___
___________________ __ _
Assembly and inspection occupations
Assemblers, bench____ _________ ___________ ______________ _ ____
Assemblers, conveyor__
___
___ ___ ____
____ _ _ _ _ _ _
Assemblers, class A __
_ _ ___ _______ _________ _ __ _____
Assemblers, class B _____ _ ____ _ _ ___ _____ _ __ _ ______
Assemblers, class C_____ _ __ _
_ ___ _ ____
____ _______
Inspectors, final car
_ _ _ _ _ _ ___
_ _ _ __ __ ___
Inspectors, machine parts.____ _ _
__ _____________ _______ _______
Inspectors class A
_
_
_ _____
Inspectors, class B__________ ______ __ __ ____ _____ __
Inspectors, class C_____________ _ _____ ________ __ ____ _
______ Finishing occupations
Metal finishers, body____ _ __ _______ _____ _______ _ _
_____
___ _____ __
Polishers, lacquer or enamel._ _ _ ___ ___ _____ _ _ __ . __
Sprayers, lacquer or enamel
Sewing-machine operators.___ _ __
_ _________ _____ _______
Material movement and maintenance occupations
Checkers, receiving and shipping__ ________________________ _____ ______ _
Crane operators, traveling bridge
_ _ _ __
Material handlers _
__
_ _ _ _
___
Truck drivers, inside power- ___
_
__
._
________
Truck drivers, outside__________ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ _____ __ _. _ ________
Carpenters, maintenance _ _ _
_
_
__________
Electricians, maintenance_____ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ______ ____
Machine repairmen, maintenance
_ __
Mechanics, maintenance._____________ _ __ _____ _______ _____ __ _____
Millwrights, maintenance
_
_ __
Millwrights__ ________ _ ____ _
_
_ _ _ _ _ ________
Laborers, maintenance, janitors, and sweepers _________ ___ _ ___________ _ ______

$1.98
2.00
2.69
1.61

$1.95

1.60

___ ___

1.91

1.63
1.61

1.64

1.62
1.65
1.58
1.67

1.70
1.80
1.54
1.83

1.63
1.55

1.97
1.72
1.73
2.15
2.57
1.94
2.08
1.70
1.64
1.62

1.92

1.91

1.85

1.78
2.00

1.81
1.75

1.76
1.59
1.56

1.55
1.60

1.77
1.77

1.48
1.70

1.64
1.59

1.67
1.67

1.72
1.66
1 75
1.50
1.53
1.60
1.48
1.52
1.59
1.80
1.85
1.89
1.80
1.37

$1.91
1.90

1.73

Automotive
chassisparts
$2.02
1.78
2.24
1.98
1 69
1.59
1.86
1.74
1.74

1.66
' 1.27
1.84
1.67
1.69

1.92
1.75
1.61
1.69
1.61

1.72
1.48
1.57
1.47

1.84
1 84
1.72
1.94

1.75
1.78
1.39
1.89

1.82

1.80

1.98
1.85
1.63

1.70

$2.00
1.83

2.00
1.69
1.44

1.67
1.32

1.74
1.63
1.48

1.67
1.57
1.40

1.69
1.46
1.33

2.09
1.71
1 68
1.46

1.75
1.97
1.73
1.50

1.46

1.51
1 55
1.35
1.46
1.45
1.64
1.75
1.82
1.72
1.29

1.48
1.55
1 42
1.44
1.53
1 76
1.84
1.83
1 76
1.34

1.46
1.53
1 38
1.45
1.46
1 68
1.77
1.74
1 72
1.29

1Excludes premium pay for overtime and night work.
Source: Wage Structure; Motor Vehicles and Parts, 1950, U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bulletin 1015, tables 5, 6, 16, 17, and 18.




Automotive
engineparts

1.46
1.47
1.31
1.43
1.45
1.69
1.76
1.80
1.70
1.25

21

EARNING S AND WORKING CONDITIONS

dependents are covered by hospitalization and
surgical benefits with the company paying part
of the cost.
A large proportion of the automobile workers
are covered by pension programs, almost all
of which are paid for entirely by the employer.
A typical contract provides that, upon reach­
ing the age of 65, employees with 10 years of
credited service become eligible to retire on a
pension. The amounts of the pensions vary
among the individual company contracts. One
widely used plan grants a monthly benefit of
$1.50 for each year of service up to 30 years,
in addition to any payments under the Federal
social security program to which the worker
may be entitled. Most of the programs in the
industry also provide benefits for permanently
disabled workers who have fulfilled certain re­
quirements, often 15 years of service and the
attainment of 50 or 55 years of age.
Working Conditions

The working environment of an automobile
employee cannot be described in terms of a
typical workplace, in view of the many differ­
ences in the size, condition, and age of the
1,900 plants in the industry; the nature of
operation; the type of equipment; the kind of
product; and the stage of fabrication. Working
conditions among the various types of occupa­
tions in the industry also differ.
In general, the work surroundings are more
favorable than those in most types of metal­
working facilities. Most of the places in which
automobile workers are employed are relatively
clean and free from dust, smoke, or fumes.
However, some work surroundings, particu­
larly in the foundry and forge departments,
may be hot and the worker may be exposed
to dust and fumes. Such working conditions
have been greatly improved with adequate
ventilation systems.
Assembly plants are large and also fairly
clean, although conditions may vary somewhat
along the assembly line itself. One work sta­
tion may be considerably noisy, especially
where parts of the chassis are riveted, bolted,
or welded together with portable power tools.
At the end of the line, where finished cars re­



ceive final inspection, workplaces are more or
less removed from the clatter of motorized
tools.
Although safety conditions vary somewhat
among the individual departments or facilities,
automobile plants on the whole are compara­
tively safe places to work. The work injury
rate is only about half as high as the average
in all-manufacturing industries. In 1951 the
average number of disabling injuries was 7.4
for each million employee hours worked in
motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts estab­
lishments. This compares with an average of
15.5 for all-manufacturing industries in that
year (chart 2).
Labor Organizations

New employees in the automobile industry
will find that nearly all plant workers and some
office workers belong to labor unions. They
will discover also that wage rates, hours of
Chart 2. Automobile Industry Has Better Than
Average Safety Record

INJURY-FREQUENCY RATE 'J
Rat.

20 r

SEVERITY RATE 2/

1951

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
BU
REAU O LABO STATISTICS
F
R

1 In jury-frequency rate is the average number of disabling work
injuries for each million employee hours worked.
2 Severity rate is the average number of days lost as a result of
disabling work injuries for each thousand employee hours.

22

EM PLOYM ENT OUTLOOK IN THE AUTOMOBILE IND U STR Y

work, pensions, vacations, and other matters
affecting their jobs, which have been previ­
ously mentioned, are, for the most part, es­
tablished through collective bargaining between
the unions and the automobile companies.
These collective bargaining contracts also con­
tain such provisions as seniority rules and
grievance procedures.
The great bulk of the workers in the indus­
try belong to the International Union, United
Automobile, Aircraft, and Agricultural Imple­
ment Workers of America (CIO). The United

Automobile Workers of America (A FL ), Inter­
national Association of Machinists (AFL), and
a few other unions are the bargaining agents
with a number of automobile parts plants.
Other unions with membership in automobile
plants include such craft unions as the Pattern
Makers’ League of North America (AFL), the
International Molders and Foundry Workers
Union of North America (AFL), the Metal
Polishers, Buffers, Platers, and Helpers Inter­
national Union (AFL), and Mechanics Educa­
tional Society of America (Ind).

Trends in Production and Employment

By the end of 1952, more than 128 million
motor vehicles had rolled off the assembly lines
of American automobile companies. In the
little more than 50 years of the automobile in­
dustry’s existence, the Nation has witnessed
its extraordinary rise from the manufacture
of 4 “horseless carriages” in 1895 to more
than 8 million cars and trucks in 1950.
Early Growth of the Industry

Although the automobile is essentially a
product of the 20th century, its development
goes back many years. As far back as the 15th
century, Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest
geniuses of his time, foresaw the possibility of
a power-driven vehicle. Several hundred years
later, in the 18th century, both French and
English inventors experimented with steampropelled carriages. The greatest stimulus to
the development of the motor vehicle was the
appearance of the internal combustion engine
around 1880. A period of intensive experimen­
tation followed, and by 1895 a number of
pioneers in this country, including Duryea,
Ford, Haynes, and Olds, were developing and
perfecting working models.
The production of automobiles on a com­
mercial basis began with the turn of the cen­
tury. The next 2 decades was a period of
remarkably rapid growth. From an employ­
ment of about 2,500 workers and a production
of about 3,700 passenger cars in 1899, the in­



dustry expanded so that by 1919, 394,000
workers were employed in the industry and 1.9
million cars were produced. The application
of mass-production methods to the building of
cars was responsible for this tremendous in­
crease in output.
After 1920, the automobile industry entered
a new phase. The industry had become an im­
portant factor in the Nation’s economy, and
the car had become an accepted form of trans­
portation. A continuing succession of technical
improvements made the automobile a more
reliable and comfortable vehicle for travel,
aided by the improved highway system that
was spreading throughout the country. The
number of motor vehicles in use nearly tripled
in the 10-year period from 1920 to 1930. Total
automobile registration jumped from 9.2 to
over 26.5 million over the decade.
As this industry became an important part
of our economy, it became sensitive to changes
in general business conditions. The sharp
fluctuations in output between prosperous and
depression periods are shown in chart 3. Motor
vehicle production fell from 5.4 million units
in 1929 to a low of 1.4 million at the bottom of
the depression in 1932. Over the same period,
employment showed a drop of about 50 percent,
and the average workweek registered a decline
of 33 percent. As the country recovered from
the depression, automobile production and em­
ployment swung upward. By 1937, automobile
manufacturers produced 4.8 million vehicles,

TRENDS IN PRODUCTION AND EMPLOYMENT

or more than triple the number produced in
1932. Employment doubled over the same
period.
Business cycles are not the only causes of
sharp fluctuations in the output of the auto­
mobile industry. Wartime also brings great
changes in the industry’s activities. Our entry
into World War II created a tremendous de­
mand for the production of war materiel. Be­
cause of the automobile industry’s vast amount
of metalworking facilities and experience, it
was given the task of producing great quanti­
ties of military items. Automobile production
for civilian use was virtually discontinued dur­
ing World War II and most of the industry’s
facilities were converted to the production of
such military items as aircraft and parts, com­
bat vehicles, tanks, guns, and ammunition.




23

Employment increased substantially during
World War II, reaching a peak of 827,000 wage
and salary workers in the beginning of 1944,
but decreased steadily thereafter until the end
of the war (chart 4).
Employment Since World W ar II

Automobile and truck production for civilian
use was virtually discontinued during World
War II, and was not resumed until the latter
half of 1945. Wage and salary worker em­
ployment in both 1945 and 1946 averaged
660,000,7 about 17 percent less than in 1944.
Motor vehicle output in 1946 totaled only 3 mil7 A work stoppage in one of the largest automobile companies in
late 1945 and the beginning of 1946 resulted in smaller average em­
ployment and production in those 2 years.

24

EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK IN THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY

lion units. Although consumer demand for both
passenger cars and trucks was very great be­
cause no new vehicles had been available since
1942, it was not until 1947 that production
reached prewar levels. The years 1947-50 saw
a steadily rising rate of motor vehicle output,
culminating in a record production of 8 million
cars and trucks in 1950. The trend of employ­



ment was also upward during this period, but
was characterized by considerable fluctuation.
The outbreak of Korean hostilities in June
1950 had a great impact on the economy of the
automobile industry. Initially, a considerable
demand resulted from scare buying in antic­
ipation of future shortages such as had oc­
curred during World War II. Employment was

TRENDS IN PRODUCTION AND EMPLOYMENT

therefore at very high levels during the last
half of 1950 and the first quarter of 1951. In
March 1951, employment reached a new high
of 935,600 wage and salary workers. Motor
vehicle production of nearly 2 million units in
the first quarter of 1951 was at an annual rate
about equal to the 1950 peak level.
The second major effect of the Korean hos­
tilities on the industry’s activities was a cut­
back in civilian automobile output. Limitations
on output were necessary to insure the supply
of critical materials for defense and essential
civilian needs. In July 1951, the National Pro­
duction Authority began to allocate the basic
metals, particularly steel, copper, and alumi­
num, for both military and civilian use under
the controlled materials plan. Production ceil­
ings on cars and trucks were established for
each quarter by limiting the consumption of
basic materials to be used in automobile manu­
facture and by fixing quotas on the actual num­
ber to be assembled. As a result of these curbs,
automobile production fell from nearly 2 mil­
lion units in the second quarter of 1951 to 1.5
million in the third, and to less than 1.4 million
in the final quarter of the year. Despite these
declines, the total output of 6.8 million vehicles
for the year 1951 was above any previous year
except 1950.
Employment levels reflected the drop in
production. From a total of 935,600 wage and
salary workers in March 1951, employment fell
rapidly and by the end of that year the in­
dustry had dropped about 150,000 workers
from its rolls. In Michigan, where automobile
manufacturing is most heavily concentrated,
thousands of workers became unemployed.
During 1952 the downward employment
trend changed. The number of workers in­
creased steadily again except in July and
August when employment dropped heavily be­
cause of the work stoppage in the steel indus­
try. With increases in the amount of material
allotted for the manufacture of automobiles,
motor vehicle output rose from about 1.3 mil­
lion units in the first quarter of 1952 to more
than 1.6 million units in the last quarter of
the year. At the end of 1952 the industry was
operating at an annual production rate of about
6.5 million cars and trucks.



25

As the year ended, wage and salary worker
employment totaled about 920,000, nearly 150,000 more than the number employed at the
beginning of 1952, and only about 2 percent
less than the peak reached in March 1951. A
large part of this increase was a result of the
growing number of workers employed in the
production of military equipment in automo­
bile companies’ plants.
Defense Activities of Automobile Companies

At present, the beginning of 1953, the auto­
mobile industry accounts for a considerable
proportion of the Nation’s total defense produc­
tion, as it did in World War II. The present
mobilization period, however, is in sharp con­
trast to the industry’s experience in World War
II, when civilian motor vehicle production was
completely stopped and existing facilities were
converted to the manufacture of military equip­
ment. Under the present defense program,
military production has been added to a rela­
tively high level of civilian output.
At the end of 1952, it was estimated that
some 110,0008 of the 920,000 employees in the
automobile industry were working on defense
production. This was an increase of about
750,000 over the number employed at the be­
ginning of 1952.
Some of the automobile workers employed on
defense production have jobs in new plants or
in Government-owned World War II plants.
Among the new plants are a number which had
been constructed as part of the industry’s post­
war expansion program but which had not been
tooled-up to produce motor vehicles and parts
at the time of the outbreak of Korean hostili­
ties. As part of the current defense mobiliza­
tion program, other new plants have been
built, some of which are adjacent to plants
producing automobiles. In addition to new
plants, some of those producing automobiles
and parts have been partially converted to the
manufacture of military equipment, particu­
larly aircraft.
8 In addition to these 110,000, about 90,000 other defense workers
were employed in plants owned or managed by automobile com­
panies. These plants, however, did not have as their principal
products motor vehicles or motor Vehicle parts, and thus were not
considered to be a part of the automobile industry.

26

EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK IN THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY

In the present mobilization period,

i s in W orld W a r 11, the automobile industry accounts for a considerable proportion of the Nation’s defense production.
Here, medium tanks are being readied for shipment in an automobile company plant.

E m p lo y m e n t O u tlo o k

What are the job prospects in the industry?
What are my chances for getting a job? And
what opportunities for advancement can I
expect? These are the questions most important
in the mind of anyone considering a career in
the automobile industry.
The answer to these questions can be sum­
marized in two conclusions: (1) Because of
the large size of the industry and its basic
importance, the industry will continue to offer
thousands of job opportunities for new workers
each year to replace those among its workers
who die, retire, or who leave the industry to
go into other fields of work. These vacancies
also provide promotional opportunities. (2)
Despite the ever-growing number of automo­
biles on our streets and highways, no large



increases in employment are expected either in
the near future or in the long run. These con­
clusions have been based on a thorough con­
sideration of the major factors which affect
the number of jobs for automobile workers.
Some of the factors affecting the number of
jobs are reasonably predictable, such as a ris­
ing population and the need to replace the
motor vehicles that are scrapped each year.
Other factors are less predictable. What will
the level of general business conditions be 10
or 20 years from now? Will other means of
transportation significantly affect the demand
for automobiles? These and other factors, to­
gether with an appraisal of the employment
prospects for the next few years and over the
long run, are discussed below.

EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK
Prospects for 1953 and 19 54

The employment outlook in the automobile
industry in the short run depends upon the size
of the demand for new automobiles and re­
placement parts, the availability of critical
materials, and any change in the number of
automobile workers employed on defense pro­
duction.
In February 1953, limitations on the use of
most critical materials were discontinued and
restrictions were lifted on the number of motor
vehicles to be manufactured. With supplies
of materials generally increasing and materials
requirements for most defense-connected pro­
grams leveling off, it appears likely that 1953
motor vehicle production will not be seriously
hindered by material shortages.
In general, the demand prospects for new
cars and trucks appear favorable for 1953.
Inventories of new automobiles at the end of
1952 were not excessive, and industry experts
expect the automobile companies to produce
and sell some 5.5 million passenger cars and 1.3
million trucks in 1953. This would be near the
levels reached during the fourth quarter of
1952 when automobiles were turned out at the
annual rate of 5.2 million passenger cars and
1.4 million trucks.
The level of production of replacement parts
is another factor in determining the employ­
ment outlook for the automobile industry.
Sales of parts are expected to rise somewhat
during 1953 and should be at about the record
1951 sales figure. Demand for replacement
parts is strongly affected by the growing
volume of automobiles and trucks in use. At
the end of 1952, 50 percent more passenger
cars and 90 percent more trucks were on the
Nation’s roads than in 1941. Moreover, many
of the vehicles on our roads are relatively
old; more than one-quarter of the 53 million
vehicles had been in use 10 or more years at
the end of 1952.
The employment outlook also is affected by
the defense activities of automobile firms. Pro­
duction of military equipment by automobile
companies is expected to rise moderately in
1953, reach a peak at the end of the year, and
level off in 1954. It is estimated that the num­



27

ber of employees working on defense activity
in the automobile industry will increase by
about 25,000 during 1953.
On the whole, therefore, the automobile in­
dustry is expected to operate in the next 2
years at levels not much different from those
at the end of 1952. During 1953, employment
is expected to fluctuate around the number em­
ployed at the end of 1952, somewhere near
900,000 wage and salary workers.
The outlook for the years just beyond 1953
is uncertain. It seems probable, however, that,
barring any major downturn in general busi­
ness conditions, the level of automobile produc­
tion during the next several years should not
vary greatly from the rate of output attained
at the end of 1952. A recent report of
the United States Department of Commerce,
“Markets After Defense Expansion,” concludes
that if general economic conditions remain fa­
vorable over the next few years, average do­
mestic demand for new passenger cars will be
around 5 million a year.
The level of employment also will be affected
by the volume of defense material being pro­
duced in the industry. Present mobilization
plans indicate that defense production will
reach its peak at the beginning of 1954 and
may ease off thereafter. Defense activity be­
yond mid-1954 depends directly on the size of
congressional appropriations and indirectly
upon the state of international affairs.
Long-Range Prospects

Persons interested in a career in the auto­
mobile industry should take into consideration
the long-run outlook for employment, because
this influences not only their chances for get­
ting and holding a job, but their promotional
opportunities. The following appraisal of fu­
ture employment trends presents a general
picture of the outlook for the industry, based
on what are believed to be reasonable assump­
tions about some of the more important factors
which will influence its growth. Although ap­
proximate future production and employment
levels are presented for 1975, they should not
be considered as applying to that particular
year, but as a general indication of what em­

28

EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK IN THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY

ployment levels might be in that period. Auto­
mobile production and employment tend to
fluctuate from year to year, in relation to gen­
eral business conditions. The estimates for
1975, therefore, represent an average of what
might be expected during the mid-1970’s based
on past trends in automobile usage and other
factors affecting employment in the industry.
In 1950, employment in the automobile in­
dustry averaged about 840,000 and exceeded
920,000 in October. Total volume of produc­
tion of motor vehicles in the 1970’s is expected
to be as great as or greater than the very high
level of 1950. Over the next 25 years, tech­
nological changes and the general steady im­
provement in production efficiency are likely
to result in a fairly substantial gain in output
per man-hour. This increase will be offset, at
least partly, by a probable drop in the length of
the average workweek in the industry. Thus,
it seems reasonable to expect that employment
in 1975 may not differ much from the level of
1950. However, even under these conditions,
the automobile industry is likely to remain the
largest employer in the manufacturing field.
Consequently, this industry would be one of the
major sources of job openings because of the
large number of workers who will be needed
each year to replace those who are leaving the
industry because of death, retirement, or tak­
ing jobs in other industries. It is estimated
that death and retirement alone will create
between 12,000 to 15,000 openings a year for
new workers. These estimates are based upon
the following analysis.
Table 4 .— I n c r e a s e
Year
1920___________________
1930___________________
1940___________________
1950___________________
19753___________________

in u s e o f p a s s e n g e r c a r s , 1 9 2 0 -7 5
Number of
passenger cars
in Use1
(thousands)
8,132
22,973
27,372
40,185
60,000

Population
14 years
and over2
(millions)
74.0
89.0
101.1
112.3
149.6

Number of
persons (over 14)
per car
9.1
3.9
3.7
2.8
2.5

1Automobile Manufacturer’s Association, Facts and Figures 1952, p. 21.
2Employment and Economic Status of Older Men and Women, May 1952, U. S. De­
partment of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bulletin No. 1092.
3Estimates for 1975 by Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With the automobile accepted as the basic
form of passenger transportation, and with
trucks carrying an increasing proportion of



the freight traffic, demand for motor vehicles
will continue to be strong, both to replace cars
as they wear out and to increase the number of
automobiles and trucks in use. The Nation’s
population is expected to show a substantial
increase during the next 25 years. This in­
crease, together with a generally rising level of
consumer income, should result in a steady in­
crease in the total number of automobiles in
use. Registration data show that in 1950 ap­
proximately 40 million passenger cars were in
use. This means that there were less than 3
persons, 14 years of age or over, for every car
in use. By 1960, the total population 14 years
of age and over is expected to increase about
10 percent. Estimates of the Bureau of Labor
Statistics indicate that by 1975, the total popu­
lation will be more than a third higher than it
was in 1950.9 If the ratio of cars to the popula­
tion over 14 years of age continues at the 1950
rate, a total passenger car registration of a
little over 53 million cars will result. In recent
years, however, the ratio of cars to population
has been steadily rising because of higher aver­
age incomes, the movement of population to
the suburbs, the more equal distribution of
consumer incomes, better highways, and high
farm incomes. By 1975, the number of persons
14 years of age and over per automobile may
be 2.5 compared with 2.8 in 1950 (table 4).
This assumption appears to be consistent with
the past trends in the ownership of automo­
biles. (In 1940 there were 3.7 persons per
registered automobile and 3.9 in 1930.) The
moderate increase in the ratio of cars to popu­
lation could mean a total passenger car regis­
tration of about 60,000,000 in 1975. To
increase the number of cars in use to 60,000,000, the industry will have to produce, over the
25-year period, an average of about 800,000
more cars a year than are scrapped.
The biggest element in demand will be the
number of cars needed to replace those being
scrapped. Between 1935 and 1941, an average
of nearly 8 percent of the total cars in use were
scrapped each year. With the recent trend
toward longer life expectancy for cars, it might
9 Ejmployment and Economic Status of Older Men and Women,
May 1952, U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
Bulletin No. 1092.

EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK

29

not be unreasonable to assume that for 1975
between 7.5 and 8 percent of cars in use would
be scrapped each year. This would mean that
in 1975 between 4.5 and 5 million passenger
cars would be required to replace those dis­
carded (chart 5). If to this total ih added the
number needed for expansion of the automobile
population and allowance is made for 200,000
cars for export (about the average in the post­
war years), the total annual production would
amount to less than 6 million passenger cars
a year.
This rate of production is considerably
higher than the highest pre-World War II
production of automobiles. In only one prewar
year, 1929, did passenger car production ex­
ceed 5 million. In the post-World War II years,
passenger car production was over 5 million in
every year from 1949 through 1951, dropping
to 4.8 million in 1952, principally because of
restrictions on the use of critical materials.
The peak production, however, was reached in
1950 when the combination of high postwar
demand, plus the scare buying in anticipation
of curtailment of automobile production after
the Korean hostilities broke out, boosted total total production—about a sixth of the value of
production to about 6.6 million cars. Thus, the products in 1950. In 1975, with a 50-percent
estimated 1975 car production, which is based increase in the number of motor vehicles since
upon a continued expansion of automobile 1950, the volume of replacement parts should
usage and reasonably generous assumptions as
a roughly
to replacement rates, would be under the 1950 show sum up, theproportionate increase.
To
large increase in replacement
peak.
parts, together with the fact the trucks would
The total truck population may increase make up a higher proportion of total vehicle
somewhat more rapidly than that for passenger output in 1975 than they did in 1950, should
cars. The total number of trucks in use in­ result in a total volume of production at least
creased about 80 percent between 1940 and equal to the 1950 level, despite the smaller
1950. Although this rate of increase probably number of passenger cars.
will not be maintained, the expected popula­
This discussion of the long-run outlook for
tion growth and the trend toward more exten­ employment in automobile manufacturing has
sive use of trucking probably will boost total been presented to give a general picture of the
truck registration between 50 and 75 percent future trends for use as a guide to those who
by 1975. This increase, together with replace­ are planning careers. These projections of em­
ment requirements and exports, should result ployment have been based upon a careful con­
in an annual truck and bus output of between sideration of the past trends in the industry
1,750,000 and 2,000,000 in 1975. On the basis and what are believed to be reasonable assump­
of these passenger car and truck estimates, tions as to some of the more important factors
total motor vehicle production in 1975 would which will affect the industry's future employ­
be slightly below the record 1950 output.
ment. However, all such forecasts have basic
Replacement parts for cars and trucks also limitations, and the longer the forecast period
account for a substantial part of the industry's the more serious these limitations are. Much



30

EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK IN THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY

can happen in the next 25 years to change sub­
stantially the course of the industry's develop­
ment ; yet some of the more important changes
cannot be discerned with sufficient precision
to be applied in making the forecast. Possible
technological changes may affect both the type
of the cars being produced and the labor re­
quirements in the industry. For example, the
widespread introduction of the gas turbine
engine, now in an early stage of development,
could substantially affect the industry's produc­
tion. Also, there have been recent trends
toward adding more equipment and stepping
up the power output of the cars and trucks.
On the other hand, the demand for cars
could be noticeably modified by such develop­




ments as increased use of aircraft for personal
transportation, including the potential develop­
ment of the helicopter for use in and about
urban areas. A higher standard of living in
many of the foreign countries, in which auto­
mobiles and trucks are as yet a comparatively
unimportant means of transportation, could
have a substantial effect on the volume of
American exports of motor vehicles. Because of
these uncertainties of future events, the pro­
jections of employment should be considered as
illustrations of the general levels of employ­
ment likely to prevail in the automobile indus­
try in the mid-1970's on the basis of present
information on the industry's production and
employment trends.

OCCUPATIONAL OUTLOOK PUBLICATIONS

31

Occupational Outlook Publications o f the Bureau o f Labor Statistics

Studies of employment trends and opportuni­
ties in the various occupations and professions
are made available by the Occupational Out­
look Service of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
These reports are for use in the vocational
guidance of veterans, in assisting defense
planners, in counseling young people in schools,
and in guiding others considering the choice of
an occupation. Schools concerned with voca­
tional training and employers and trade unions
interested in on-the-job training have also
found the reports helpful in planning programs
in line with prospective employment oppor­
tunities.
Two types of reports are issued, in addition
to the Occupational Outlook Handbook: Occu­
pational outlook bulletins describing the long-

run outlook for employment in each occupa­
tion and giving information on earnings, work­
ing conditions, and the training required.
Special reports issued from, time to time on
such subjects as the general employment out­
look, trends in the various States, and occu­
pational mobility.
These reports are issued as bulletins of the
Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most of them may
be purchased from the Superintendent of Docu­
ments, Washington 25, D. C., at the prices
listed with a 25-percent discount on 100 copies
or more. Those reports which are listed as
free may be obtained directly from the United
States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor
Statistics, Washington 25, D. C., as long as
the supply lasts.

Occupational Outlook Handbook

Employment Information on Major Occupations for
Use in Guidance. Bulletin 998 (1951 Revised Edi­
tion). $3. Illus.

Includes brief reports on more than 400 oc­
cupations of interest in vocational guidance,
including professions; skilled trades; clerical,
sales, and service occupations; and the major
types of farming. Each report describes the em­
ployment trends and outlook, the training
qualifications required, earnings, and working




conditions. Introductory sections summarize
the major trends in population and employment
and in the broad industrial and occupational
groups, as background for an understanding
of the individual occupations.
The Handbook is designed for use in counsel­
ing, in classes or units on occupations, in the
training of counselors, and as a general refer­
ence. Its 600 pages are illustrated with 103
photographs and 85 charts.

32

EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK IN THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY

Occupational Outlook Bulletins
Plastics Products Industry, Employment Outlook in the
Bulletin 929 (1948). Ulus.......................................................................................................
Electric Light and Power Occupations, Employment Outlook in
Bulletin 944 (1949). Illus.......................................................................................................
Railroad Occupations, Employment Outlook in
Bulletin 961 (1949). Illus.......................................................................................................
Engineers, Employment Outlook for
Bulletin 968 (1949). Illus.......................................................................................................
Elementary and Secondary School Teachers, Employment Outlook for
Bulletin 972 (1949). Illus.......................................................................................................
Petroleum Production and Refining, Employment Outlook in
Bulletin 994 (1950). Illus.................... '.................................................................................
Men’s Tailored Clothing Industry, Employment Outlook in
Bulletin 1010 (1951). Illus.....................................................................................................
Department Stores, Employment Outlook in
Bulletin 1020 (1951). Illus.......................................................................................................
Accounting, Employment Outlook in
Bulletin 1048 (1952). Illus.......................................................................................................
Earth Scientists, Employment Outlook for
Bulletin 1050 (1952). Illus.....................................................................................................
Merchant Marine, Employment Outlook in the
Bulletin 1054 (1952). Illus.....................................................................................................
Electronics Manufacturing, Employment Outlook in
Bulletin 1072 (1952). Illus.......................................................................................................
Federal White Collar Workers—Occupations and Salaries, June 1951
Bulletin 1117 (1952)...............................................................................................................
Technicians, Employment Outlook for
Bulletin 1131(1953). Illus........................................................................................................
Printing Occupations, Employment Outlook in
Bulletin 1126 (1953). Illus. Reprinted from the 1951 Occupational Outlook
Handbook .................................................................................................................................
Air Transportation, Employment Outlook in
Bulletin 1128 (1953). Illus. Reprinted from the 1951 Occupational Outlook
Handbook ...................
Mechanics and Repairmen, Employment Outlook for
Bulletin 1129 (1953). Illus. Reprinted from the 1951 Occupational Outlook
Handbook .................................................................................................................................
Metalworking Occupations, Employment Outlook in
Bulletin 1130 (1953). Illus. Reprinted from the 1951 Occupational Outlook
Handbook .................................................................




P ric e

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OCCUPATIONAL OUTLOOK PUBLICATIONS

33

Occupational Outlook Supplements
Price

Effect of Defense Program on Employment Outlook in Engineering
(Supplement to Bulletin 968, Employment Outlook for Engineers) (1951)........... 15 cents
Effect of Defense Program on Employment Situation in Elementary and Secondary
School Teaching
(Supplement to Bulletin 972, Employment Outlook for Elementary and Secondary
School Teachers) (1951) ...................................................................................................... 15 cents
Special Reports

Factors Affecting Earnings in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Bulletin 881 (1946)................................................................................................................
Occupational Outlook Information Series (by States)
VA Pamphlet 7-2 (1947). (When ordering, specify State or States desired)
(each)
Employment, Education, and Earnings of American Men of Science
Bulletin 1027 (1951)................................................................................................................
Employment and Economic Status of Older Men and Women
Bulletin 1092 (May 1952)......................................................................................................
Negroes in the United States: Their Employment and Economic Status
Bulletin 1119 (December 1952)...........................................................................................
Mobility of Tool and Die Makers, 1940-1951
Bulletin 1120 (1952)................................................................................................................
Occupational Mobility of Scientists
Bulletin 1121 (1953)................................................................................................................
Manpower Resources in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, 1951
Bulletin No. 1132 (1953).......................................................................................................
Employment Opportunities for Student Personnel Workers in Colleges and
Universities for Public School Teachers (1951) ...........................................................
Elementary and Secondary School Principalships—Chief Advancement Opportunity
for Public School Teachers (1951).....................................................................................
Employment Opportunities for Counselors in Secondary and Elementary
Schools (1951) .........................................................................................................................
Employment, Education, and Income of Engineers, 1940-1950: A Survey of
Engineering Society Members of Full Professional Grade (1953) .......................
Industrial Research and Development: A Preliminary Report (1953) ..........................




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&U. S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1953—256052


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