1950s Classic Cars
“Production and sales dropped far below their expected volume in 1958.The growing sales of smaller automobiles pointed to the need for a major revision in the big-car industry. United States automobile makers turned out 4,600,000 units, the smallest number since 1948. The American Motors Corporation, producer of the Rambler, was the only United States producer to show a sales increase. Rambler sales spurted from about 120,000 units to about 190,000. Small imported-car sales rose by 100,000 to 300,000.
As the year ended, slow sales of the new 1959 models caused officials to doubt whether 1959 sales goals of 5,500,000 to 6,000,000 units could be met. Manufacturers had overestimated the size of the automobile market for three straight years.
The buying public resisted price increases of $100 or more in the 1958 models. They also criticized the bigger, longer, more powerful cars because they cost more to operate. They turned to smaller, more economical cars. The “Big Three”–General Motors, the Ford Motor Company, and the Chrysler Corporation–admitted they planned to bring out their own American-made small cars to meet the demand. They set no date, but experts felt the small cars might appear late in 195.
“Independent” Manufacturers. The American Motors Corporation’s success with its Rambler spurred the small-car movement for United States producers. American set its sights on gaining 6 per cent of the 1959 market. If total sales reach 5,500,000 units, that would mean the sale of 330,000 Ramblers. The other “independent” producer, the Studebaker-Packard Corporation,faced a mounting debt and shrinking sales. It dropped the Packard line, and concentrated on a new, smaller, economy car–the Lark.The Curtiss-Wright Corporation ended a management contract with Studebaker,leaving the automobile company on its ow.
The “Big Three.” General Motors the best of the three major producers, picking up a larger share of the over-all market. The Chrysler Corporation slipped badly, and Ford Motor Company sales also dropped considerably. Despite unfavorable public reaction to the 1958 models, the 1959 models were even longer, lower, and more expensive. They featured the biggest”fins” ever put on mass-produced car.
Economic Effect. The automobile industry’s slump had less apparent effect on the national economy than had been expected. Experts had long held that a slump in automobile production would drag the economy down. But over-all business conditions moved up out of a recession despite reduced automobile production and sales.”
“Automobile (1958).” Online Table. World Book Advanced. World Book, 2015. Web. 9 June 2015..