The automobile industry uses robots to help manufacture cars. This time-lapse video shows robots assembling an automobile chassis. Robots are especially useful in performing activities on an assembly line that humans find repetitive and monotonous.
Revenues for U.S. automakers declined during the late 1970s and early 1980s as the companies retooled to produce smaller cars, and Chrysler in particular was on the verge of bankruptcy. Ford executive Lee Iacocca moved to Chrysler and rescued it by changing the product line and winning loan guarantees from Congress in 1980. The loans were eventually repaid (seven years early), and Chrysler survived.
Japanese automakers shifted their emphasis in the late 1980s to luxury automobiles, which competed directly against established American and German luxury cars. Honda started its Acura division, while Nissan introduced the Infiniti line and Toyota began producing its Lexus brand of cars. These luxury automobile entries presented significant challenges to existing luxury automakers, such as BMW and Mercedes. Both companies took financial losses as a result, but they have since rebounded.
While working with the Ford Motor Company, Lee Iacocca demonstrated a keen understanding of public tastes, which was reflected in his development of the Mustang, Mercury Cougar, and Lincoln Mark III. In 1978 Iacocca became president and CEO of the financially troubled Chrysler Corporation and within five years rebuilt the company into a successful organization.
Industry developments of the late 1990s focused on joint international ventures among the strongest companies and global expansion into new markets. Globalization has made it increasingly difficult to identify an automobile as the product of one company or country. General Motors, for example, allied with Suzuki and Isuzu in Japan to sell several products internationally under GM nameplates. In 1998 Daimler-Benz AG merged with Chrysler Corporation but announced it would maintain Mercedes and Chrysler as separate brands. Ford acquired the automobile division of Swedish vehicle maker Volvo in 1999. A year later GM announced it would purchase a 20-percent stake in Italian carmaker Fiat, which also manufactures cars under the Ferrari, Lancia, and Maserati brands.