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MARCH 6, 1896
Charles King of Detroit is the first person to test drive a gasoline-powered automobile in Michigan. Three months later, also in Detroit, Henry Ford drives his gasoline-powered, two-cylinder quadricycle. But it is Ransom E. Olds of Lansing who starts Michigan's first auto company. Like King and Ford, Olds developed a gasoline-powered engine. In 1900, after setbacks, Olds opened the nation's first factory designed specifically for auto production. The following year, he began producing the Curved-dash Runabout, which had a one-cylinder engine and was lightweight and inexpensive. By 1905, the Olds Motor Works produced 6,500 cars annually. Ford, credited with perfecting modern mass production, began manufacturing autos in 1903. In 1908, he introduced the Model T. Five years later, he produced 250,000 Model Ts annually. In 1908, William Durant, a successful Flint carriage maker, organized the General Motors Company. Unlike Ford, whose strategy was to manufacture only one model of car, Durant merged several existing auto companies to offer a diversity of models. The availability of raw materials, markets and investment capital, as well as men like Olds, Ford and Durant, made Michigan the auto capital of the world. By 1914, 78 percent of the nation's automobiles were produced in Michigan.
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