The automotive industry comprises a wide range of companies and organizations involved in the design, development, manufacturing, marketing, and selling of motor vehicles.It is one of the world's largest industries by revenue. The automotive industry does not include industries dedicated to the maintenance of automobiles following delivery to the end-user, such as automobile repair shops and motor fuel filling stations.

The word automotive comes from the Greek autos (self), and Latin motivus (of motion), referring to any form of self-powered vehicle. This term, as proposed by Elmer Sperry] (1860-1930), first came into use with reference to automobiles in 1898.

The automotive industry began in the 1860s with hundreds of manufacturers that pioneered the horseless carriage. For many decades, the United States led the world in total automobile production. In 1929, before the Great Depression, the world had 32,028,500 automobiles in use, and the U.S. automobile industry produced over 90% of them. At that time, the U.S. had one car per 4.87 persons. After 1945, the U.S. produced about 75 percent of world's auto production. In 1980, the U.S. was overtaken by Japan and then became world's leader again in 1994. In 2006, Japan narrowly passed the U.S. in production and held this rank until 2009, when China took the top spot with 13.8 million units. With 19.3 million units manufactured in 2012, China almost doubled the U.S. production of 10.3 million units, while Japan was in third place with 9.9 million units. From 1970 (140 models) over 1998 (260 models) to 2012 (684 models), the number of automobile models in the U.S. has grown exponentially.

In 2007, there were about 806 million cars and light trucks on the road, consuming over 980 billion litres (980,000,000 m3) of gasoline and diesel fuel yearly. The automobile is a primary mode of transportation for many developed economies. The Detroit branch of Boston Consulting Group predicted that, by 2014, one-third of world demand would be in the four BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India and China). Meanwhile, in the developed countries, the automotive industry has slowed. It is also expected that this trend will continue, especially as the younger generations of people (in highly urbanized countries) no longer want to own a car anymore, and prefer other modes of transport. Other potentially powerful automotive markets are Iran and Indonesia. Emerging automobile markets already buy more cars than established markets. According to a J.D. Power study, emerging markets accounted for 51 percent of the global light-vehicle sales in 2010. The study, performed in 2010 expected this trend to accelerate. However, more recent reports (2012) confirmed the opposite; namely that the automotive industry was slowing down even in BRIC countries. In the United States, vehicle sales peaked in 2000, at 17.8 million units.