1950s Classic Cars
“The automobile industry had the biggest year in its history in 1955.It turned out more cars and trucks than ever before. It offered its workers more economic security than they had ever enjoyed when it granted a modified guaranteed annual wage. And the Ford Motor Company,the world’s largest family-owned industrial empire, announced plans to sell its stock to the public.
Auto executives themselves were surprised by the strength of the 1955 auto market. Early in the year, they expected a demand large enough to support the production of 5,800,000 passenger cars. But consumer demand was so great that estimates had to be continually revised.
Production in 1955 totaled almost 9,188,000 cars, trucks, and buses,more than 1,000,000 over the old record of 8,019,160 units produced in 195.
Labor Relations. This impressive record would not have been possible without labor peace. For a while during 1955 it appeared that major strikes would take place. The chief contract demand of Walter Reuther’s C.I.O United Automobile Workers was for a guaranteed annual wage, a plan under which laid-off workers would be assured of their regular take-home pay during periods of unemployment. The industry was united in opposition to this demand. But, after months of bargaining, Ford came up with a compromise proposal which the workers accepted. The U.A.W. won similar concessions from other auto-makers in later contract negotiation.
Ford Stock. The Ford Motor Company had remained a tightly-held “closed corporation”since it was founded by Henry Ford in 1903. Over the years, there were reports that Ford would sell some of its stock to the public.These reports finally were confirmed in 1955. Details were announced in November. The stock registration was filed on December 21.
Under a complicated arrangement, the Ford Foundation, a giant philanthropic trust which was established in 1936 and which owns 88 per cent of Ford Motor Company stock, will sell part of its holdings to the public.The first public offering, scheduled for January, 1956, called for the sale of almost 10,200,000 shares. (These shares will have voting rights, but securities held by the Foundation will not.) This sale should bring between $700,000,000 and $750,000,000, making it the biggest single stock sale in history.
In December, the company filed a statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a preliminary step to its sale of stock. The statement revealed that Ford’s assets amount to more than $2,400,000,000.Ford’s net earnings for the nine months ending September 30,1955, totaled $312,200,000.
After the stock offering, the public will have 60 per cent of the voting power in the corporation, and the Ford family the remaining 40 per cent. The 40 per cent will be enough to give the Ford family actual operating control.
Other Developments. Two more passengers cars fell victim to the hotly competitive sales race when production of the Willys and Kaiser was discontinued. But the year saw reappearance of the Ford Motor Company’s Continental,which had been discontinued in 1948. Production of the Continental, a luxury vehicle costing about $10,000, will be limited to 4,000 units a year.
The Lincoln, Studebaker, and Rambler came out with new designs during the year. But there were few style changes on other 1956 models, which were introduced during the fall of 1955. The trend to higher horsepower continued. Packard offered a 310-horsepower engine on its Caribbean series, believed to be the highest ever offered on a production car.Ford placed heavy emphasis on safety in its new models, offering a”safety package” which included semi collapsible steering wheels, padded instrument panels, seat belts, and strengthened door latches. Other producers offered similar devices.
Chrysler Corporation introduced a push-button automatic transmission system and emphasized the “going-away” look on its 1956 models. It was a come-back year for Chrysler. In 1954, Chrysler’s sales dropped to 12.9 per cent of the total industry volume. But in 1955 Chrysler reaped more than 20 per cent of all automobiles sales.
General Motors Corporation made financial history in 1955. The corporation’s net profits after taxes were more than $1,000,000,000. Never before had a corporation earned a $1,000,000,000 profit in a single year.In December, GM successfully tested a second experimental gas-turbine passenger car, the Firebird II.”
“Automobile (1955).” Online Table. World Book Advanced. World Book, 2015. Web. 9 June 2015..