A Walk Through History: Mitchell 1 and the Motor Vehicle Industry



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The automobile industry has a long and fascinating history, with more than 130 years of constant advancements in styles, designs, technologies and safety features – and Mitchell 1 has been there for most of it. Here’s an interesting look at some of the industry highlights since the very first automobile hit the road. Click the infographic at the right to take a little stroll through the history of our industry.

In the Beginning

Karl Benz, a German engine designer, is credited with developing and producing the first practical motorcar, or “motorwagen,” in 1885. He was followed closely by Henry Ford, who introduced his first car in 1886, and Gottlieb Daimler, who built what many consider the first modern automobile in 1887.

It wasn’t long before engineers began forming the first automobile companies to meet the growing demand for these new-fangled transportation machines. In the U.S., Frank and Charles Duryea led the way by founding the Duryea Motor Wagon Company in 1893. Henry Ford followed a decade later, forming the Ford Motor Company in 1903.

In 1908, Ford forever changed the industry with the release of the Model T, the first affordable car for the masses. From there, improvements flowed fast and furious. In 1910, Vincent Bendix patented the electric car starter, eliminating the need to turn a hand crank to get the car going. In 1918, Service Engineering Company published Reed Electrical Manuals (the precursor to Mitchell 1), the first specs and diagrams of automobile electrical systems – an important step in codifying the internal workings of a car.

 The Middle Ages

As automobile production grew more sophisticated, manufacturers began developing luxury cars with superior engines and other technologies. For example, 1936 saw the introduction of the Rolls Royce Phantom III, which incorporated innovative technology that kept other manufacturers playing catch-up for decades.

With many different models of cars now on the road, the need for standardized parts and repairs became increasingly important. To meet this growing need, Glenn Mitchell founded Mitchell Manuals in 1946, and published the first collision estimate guides that featured part numbers, illustrations and prices.

As cars kept getting bigger and faster, safety also became an issue. This led Volvo to introduce seat belts as a standard feature in all of their cars in 1955. Meanwhile, Mitchell Manuals continued to upgrade its product offerings by releasing the Pocket Estimator, the first repair manual to include labor times.

The Sporty Era

By now, the public was totally hooked on cars, and they wanted faster and sportier models. Using knowledge gained from the racing circuit, Porsche introduced the 911, a fast and sexy (but pricey) sports car in 1963. The following year, Ford released the Mustang, a sleek, sporty model that was affordable to the masses. It quickly became one of the best-selling cars of all time.

During this period, people began to realize that cars released a lot of noxious fumes into the air. In 1965, the federal government took the first steps to deal with air quality and safety issues by passing the Clean Air Act and the first Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations.

The following year saw the invention of the first electronic fuel injection system for cars to enable fuel to burn more efficiently. And in 1968, the U.S. government passed the first emission control standards for all new cars – a huge step forward in the move to cleaner air.

The early 1970s featured two important advancements from Mitchell – the first collection of service and repair manuals for imported automobiles (1971), and the first repair and service manuals for light trucks (1973).

High-Tech Takes Over

With the advent of personal computers, digital technology began to revolutionize the automobile industry. In 1989, Mitchell created the first PC-based automotive repair information product for auto repair shops – ON-DEMAND® on CD-ROM.  A year later, Honda introduced an in-car navigation system.

In 1993, Mitchell updated ON-DEMAND®, making it the first Windows-based product for repair information, and followed up two years later with Series I, a Windows-based shop management system (precursor  to today’s Manager™ SE).

The late ‘90s saw the release of the Toyota Prius, which soon became the most well known hybrid in the world, and the acquisition of Mitchell’s repair division by Snap-on Incorporated, which led to the formation of the Mitchell Repair Information Company.

In the year 2000, Mitchell Repair became the first company to compress automotive repair and estimating data into palm-based devices. The company made the news again the following year, changing its name to Mitchell 1.

Four years later, Mitchell 1 launched a CRM marketing service, and followed that up by introducing Tractor-Trailer.net, a Web-based repair software for heavy vehicles, in 2006.

No Slowing Down for Mitchell 1

In 2007, the On-Demand Tips system, which allowed technicians to ask questions and share information, was introduced. However, the auto industry took a steep downturn the following year when the global recession cut Ford, Chrysler, Nissan and Toyota sales by one-third. Interestingly, that bruising year also saw the release of the Tesla Roadster.

In 2009, Mitchell 1 launched the Ask-a-Tech interactive community with the introduction of OnDemand5, which provided complete OEM information in an online application. This was closely followed by the release of Medium-Truck.net, which provided repair information for Class 4-6 trucks.

In response to the growing demand for environmentally friendly vehicles, the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf entered the market in 2010 as the first mass-produced electric cars made in the U.S. and Japan.

Meanwhile, Mitchell 1 continued to lead the way in vehicle repair information with the launch of RepairConnect, which provided trouble code procedure solutions for Class 4-8 trucks. In 2012, Mitchell 1 introduced the innovative ProDemand® with SureTrack®, which took online automotive repair information to a new level, offering both comprehensive OEM and real-world repair information.

A year later, the company released TruckLabor, the first mechanical labor estimating software for Class 4-8 trucks.

Responding to the growing use of mobile devices, Mitchell 1 optimized ProDemand® for tablet devices in 2015 with the introduction of ProDemand® Mobile. Soon after, the company released TruckSeries, consolidating all its Class 4-8 truck repair solutions in a single application. In 2016, Mitchell 1 released Manager SE Truck Edition, providing shop management for Class 4-8 vehicles.

In 2018, Mitchell 1 will celebrate 100 years of setting the standard for automotive repair information!