See How The American Car Market Changed Over 124 Years

Whether it be the rat-rods or the 1930s, the muscle cars of the 60s or the sport compacts of the 90s, we all have a connection with the American automotive landscape. This fascinating infographic made by Firestone shows how some brands have stood the test of time, while others have faded away.

General Motors, Ford, Chrysler were the dominant players for many decades and while they still hold a large chunk of the market share, international competition from Europe, Asia, and now small up-starts within the U.S all have fielded formidable challengers to the so-called Big Three.

There was a time when European cars like BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche were obscure and out of reach for the majority of buyers. However, with many of these brands shifting production of popular models to factories here in the U.S and the popularity of leasing, the Germans have become more accessible to car-buyers with modest incomes.

The gas crisis during the 1970s brought a dramatic shift away from domestic brands, buyers looked to the smaller more fuel efficient Japanese cars like the Civic and Corolla. But the longevity and build quality of these early models left some owners disappointed.

After a while, Honda and Toyota began surpass the Americans in terms of quality and durability, and it allowed them to branch off into luxury marques. The success of Honda and Toyota allowed for smaller brands like Subaru and Mazda to carve out their own niches. But while it took the American brands some time to catch up, they now make cars as well as anyone.

The past 10 years saw the rise of Hyundai and Kia. Both of these Korean automakers were pigeon-holed for awhile as the “car you bought because you couldn’t afford anything else.” But fresh designs, increased quality, and great value has made the Japanese take notice.

Increased competition and a financial crisis forced the Big Three to reevaluate their game-plan for the U.S. market. Some brands like Saturn and Pontiac had to die so that others could live. But the biggest surprise over last 5 years hasn’t come from an automotive giant, but rather a small company born in Silicon Valley, Tesla Motors.

You can trace the history of America’s car landscape below with this this interactive infographic by Firestone. Click the link to see a more full version.

(Image Credit: AP)