At one time this was true.
Prior to World War I, Chicago was a leading rival to Detroit for the manufacture of the "Horseless Carriage", according to the Encyclopedia of Chicago History.
- Once-upon-a-time, as then is now, the electric and hybrid automobile was all the rage. From 1896 to 1918, the Woods Motor Vehicle Company built more than 13, 500 units.
- Remember Checker Cabs? The Yellow Cab Manufacturing Company originally built its boxy cars here until the plant move to Kalamazoo.
- Another Chicago original was the Rambler, started by bicycle maker, Thomas B. Jeffery, whose company, Thomas B. Jeffery & Co, built over 4.2 million cars. The manufacturing of the Rambler eventually was moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Rambler finally rambled off into history, in 1969.
- The name Elgin might be known for watches, but between 1916 and 1924, the Elgin Car Company built 16, 784 cars in Summit (Argo), Illinois.
- Probably the most famous car builder in Chicago was the creation of Preston Tucker. whose "Tucker Torpedo", built at what is now the Ford City Mall, made only 51 automobiles, starting in 1946. The subject of lore and movies, it is rumored that because Tucker's automobile was so advanced for the age, that rival Detroit managed to drive Tucker and his famed "Tucker Torpedo" out of business.
Today, about all that remains of Chicago's proud heritage as an automobile manufacturer, is a Ford plant on Chicago's south side.
Like the motion picture business, which was developing around the same time, and a lot of the high-tech business of today, Chicago seems to be the origin point but not the final delivery point.