Where you build your branches and factories plays an important role in the early growth of your company. Time is also a key factor in where you place your operations.
The following tips pertain to city-based maps.
When it comes to building branches before World War 1, you want to look for cities with at least 100,000 people in them. You'll also want the city's per capita to be within 10x of the vehicle price you're selling. Meaning if your vehicle's sales price is $2,000, the city's per capita should be at least $200.
Most of a city's population falls within 5x of the per capita value. And a household is generally only willing to spend their yearly income on a new vehicle. However, in the early years of the automobile industry, wealthier folks were more willing to spend greater amounts of money on this new technology. As cars become commonplace, this willingness to overspend declines. That decline happens around 1908.
The Wealth and Per Capita suggestion limit you to North America and Western Europe at the start of the game. You can still run a successful company outside of these two regions, but it is more difficult to do.
The restrictions loosen up in this era. Any city in North America and Western Europe with a population of 50,000 or more can support a branch. Try to keep per capita within 5x of your vehicle sales prices.
Larger cities outside of North America and Europe are viable in this era too. A high population can make up for a lack of income. Cities with more than 500,000 people making within 8x per capita of your vehicles should be feasible.
Many cities that were barely viable before can now support your business operations. Every city in North America and Europe can sell vehicles. And most cities in Asia and many in South American with greater than 100,000 people and within 5x per capita can support branches.
Except for extreme cases in Africa, every city in the game can support branches.
The main consideration in the early game years is factory location. It matters more than labor costs, Infrastructure, and Manufacturing capacity.
The distance from your factory to your branches, especially locations that sell the most units, is the top concern. The distance has a direct effect on shipping costs. The greater the distance, the more it costs to ship units. In the early game years, shipping is your greatest concern for factory cost containment.
You should place your factories near your largest branches. You may also want to consider labor costs as a secondary consideration.
If you're building a factory between two large branches, like New York and Los Angles, the Infrastructure rating becomes a little more important.
You'll still want to build close to your major branches in this era. But labor costs are becoming more important, and you may want to consider moving some operations to neighboring countries. Manufacturing Capacity is also becoming important. This rating affects the number of units you can produce per production line. That also means more units per employee.
The 70s begin the age of globalization. It becomes cheaper to ship vehicles rather than pay labor costs. You still should keep an eye on Infrastructure and Manufacturing capacity. But starting in the 70s and rapidly progressing into modern times, you can start offshoring vehicle manufacturing to lower labor costs. Still, keep in mind that shipping costs are a thing. So neighboring countries with slightly higher wages are still better options than shipping a vehicle halfway around the world.