Karl Benz of Mannheim, Germany created the Victoria, a two-passenger, 4-wheeled automobile with a 3-hp engine, which could reach the top speed of 11 mph and had a pivotal front axle operated by a roller-chained tiller for steering. The model was successful with 85 units sold in 1893.
"In 1894 Benz improved this design in his new Velo model. This was produced on such a remarkably large scale for the era—1,200 total from 1894 to 1901— that it may be considered the first production automobile. The Benz Velo also participated in the first automobile race, the 1894 Paris to Rouen Rally" (Wikipedia article on Karl Benz, accessed 06-01-2009).
By the end of the nineteenth century Benz was the largest automobile company in the world with 572 units produced in 1899.