There’s only a handful of American truck manufacturers left, but once upon a time, it was very different. I’ve compiled 150 vintage ads and press articles of defunct American truck manufacturers, but there may well have been more. Most are from the pre-WW2 era, although some are more recent, and a few are still going, like FWD and Oshkosh, having found successful niches in the industry.
Why so many? Automobiles (cars and trucks) were the high-tech industry in the early part of the 20th century, and lots of entrepreneurs wanted in. Cars were the really hot thing, and Wikipedia has a list of defunct car manufacturers that I believe tops 1300, although I didn’t count them all. So 150 truck makers is small change compared to that.
Some of these early truck builders were local wagon builders, and saw their business under threat, so they started building trucks too, most of them looking like horseless wagons. Others thought they had some clever new invention or technology to give them a leg up on the competition, although their success rate seems rather low, with a few exceptions, like FWD with its Four Wheel Drive trucks. Probably the biggest group falls into the small-medium sized firms that simply bought the great majority of their key mechanical components and assembled trucks with their own frames and such, to appeal to specific local market demands or such.
The barriers to entry were quite low, in that model. But eventually the better-capitalized large firms could invest in evermore productive technology and such, and increasingly made it difficult for these small regional firms. Those that survived the good years of the 1920s were almost invariably wiped out during the Depression, although a decent number managed to survive into the 1950s.
I can’t comment on each of these, although I did stumble into one or two histories and found them quite fascinating. maybe we’ll pick one or two out sometime and profile them.
Currently there’s a somewhat similar phenomena going on with EVs and EV trucks: there’s dozens of startups, including numerous in the truck/delivery/van sphere. Obviously not all of them are going to make it, but once agin, it’s the early days of a new market.