Miniature models of automobiles first appeared in Europe around the time real automobiles did. Then, shortly after, they appeared in the United States.
These were toys and replicas often made of lead and brass. Later models made in the early twentieth century were slush cast plaster or iron.
Tin and pressed steel cars, trucks, and military vehicles, like those made by Bing of Germany, were introduced in the 1920s through the 1940s, but period models rarely copied actual vehicles, likely because of the crudeness of early casting and metal shaping techniques. Casting vehicles in various alloys, usually zinc (called zamac or mazac), became popular in the late 1930s and remained prominent after World War II.
Post-war, pressed tin and diecast zinc were the most popular materials used in Europe and Japan. Mass-produced diecast metal toys appeared in America as well, but unlike those in Europe, they were often cruder and less detailed. Meanwhile, the use of plastics surged and became popular by the mid-1950s.
During the 1950s and 1960s, tin and pressed steel were seen broadly Japan, which dominantly used diecast into the 1970s. By 2000, China and other countries of Southeast Asia became the main producers of diecast metal companies headquartered in Europe, the United States and Japan.