1960s Classic Cars
1960s Auto Industry
The auto industry ran into rough going in 1967 and had to settle for its third best year in sales and sixth best in production. Labor problems were regarded as the prime roadblock.
Just as Ford Motor Company, the world’s second largest automaker was getting into full production of its 1968 models, it was hit by a 49-day strike. After the contract was accepted, on Oct. 25, 1967,a rash of local plant walkouts continued, and others broke out at Chrysler Corporation and General Motors Corporation (GM) plants. Ford estimated the tie ups cost it a production loss of 575,000 cars and trucks. It put its earnings loss in the third quarter at about $73,900,000.
The United Automobile Workers union agreement with Ford, and later with Chrysler and GM, provided boosts of over 90 cents an hour in wages and benefits over three years. American Motors Corporation (AMC),the smallest and the weakest of the “Big Four,” asked for special consideration, which the union took under advisement.
Sales of new cars, including an astounding new high of 785,000 imports,totaled about 8,500,000 in the calendar year, well behind 1966’s 9,008,488 and the all-time high of 9,313,912 in 1965. Import sales totaled 658,123 units in 1966 and 569,415 a year earlier. Through Dec. 23, 1967, the four U.S. auto firms built 7,260,702 cars, compared with 8,493,156 in the same 1966 period. Henry Ford II, chairman of Ford’s board, in December, 1966, had predicted 1967 new car sales of close to 8,500,000 if there was a strike. He did not, however,forecast that his company would be its target.
The sales pace in 1967 trailed that of 1966 through virtually the entire year.Aside from the unsettled labor problems, other causes of the sales lag included the auto safety issue, tight money, and the war in Vietnam.Draft calls and enlistments–actual and potential–took hundreds of thousands of young men out of the auto market. Other potential buyers may have deferred purchases until the appearance of the 1968 models, which offered more safety features than the 1967 car.
Production Figures for the calendar year totaled 7,406,449 units, far behind the 8,611,776 built in 1966–and the record 9,329,104 assemblies in 1965. The industry wound up with about 1,580,000 truck assemblies for calendar 1967, its third best year. The figure was topped only by 1966 (1,764,377),and 1965 (1,885,109).
Despite the smaller number of cars sold, the car buyers’ total bill was about the same–some $36,000,000,000–because of higher price tags and more optional equipment purchases in 1967.
Price tags of the 1968 models were marked higher at introduction time than on the comparable 1967 models. Another price boost by early 1968 seemed likely. Manufacturing costs were rising because of additional safety items and higher wages, as well as costs of materials–especially steel and copper. A government decision late in 1967 to stick with its original plan of requiring shoulder harnesses on 1968 cars manufactured after Jan. 1,1968, made it virtually certain that much of the cost of this $25 item would be passed along to the car buyer.
Automotive News, in its yearly study of price increases, figured that the sticker prices of 1968 models were up an average of $116.25 a car, or 3.63 per cent over 1967 prices. It also went a step further and figured that, allowing for year-to-year equipment changes and deletions, the 1968 prices were up $79.93, or 2.28 per cent, a car. Its survey covered about 300 of the 357 models in the 1968 line. Those 300 were comparable with the 1967 models.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that new car prices in the 1968 line were up 3.75 per cent, or $87.54 per car. It said$26.95 of the increase was due to safety improvements and $11.20 to design changes to reduce emission of exhaust pollutants. The bulk,$49.39, it said, was a pure price boos.
The 1968 Car Line was longer, lower, and wider than its 1967 shape. It dropped some convertible and station wagon offerings and increased the choices in two-door hardtops, the hottest sellers in the 1968 car line.
AMC introduced the only new 1968 car, the Javelin. It challenges the Barracuda, Camaro, and Mustang for a share of the sporty car market,estimated at 1,000,000 units a year. AMC also was the only manufacturer to drop a car line. It abandoned its Marlin after four years.
People were spending more money for their 1968 cars, even though they were not buying as many as in earlier years. AMC documented this trend with figures on the first five weeks of its Javelin sales. Purchasers spent an average of $3,053 on each Javelin, which had a basic price of $2,450. Customers were virtually tailoring their cars to fit their personal tastes and pocketbooks. Prices of all U.S. made cars ranged from $1,923 for the Rambler American Six to $10,598 for the Cadillac Fleetwood 7.
The Auto Safety Furor lost some of its heat in 1967 as the federal government went ahead with its program calling for 20 safety items to be added to 1968 cars.Some automakers grumbled but managed to meet the modified, 1968-model safety standards. They included such items as windshield washers and defoggers, dual-cylinder brake systems, impact-absorbing steering columns, and safe door latches.
And if anyone had any idea that the government interest in cutting down the nation’s traffic death toll of 52,000 a year was only a momentary thing, it was dispelled in October when U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Alan S. Boyd issued 47 additional proposed standards covering cars through 1971. Boyd, who with Dr. William J.Haddon, Jr., the first director of the National Highway Safety Bureau (NHSB), is charged with enforcing the federal safety program, commented,“We do not expect miracles overnight.”.
Auto recall campaigns, which requested customers to return their cars for inspection and repair of suspected mechanical defects, continued in 1967. The NHSB tabulated 1,882,050 recalls in the 12 months ended Sept. 9, 1967. The total for the first 11 months of 1967 was estimated at about 2,800,000 cars. Government and industry officials seemed to agree that relatively few defective cars were found.
Electric Car development was being pushed by most of the car makers as well as newcomers. Ford, GM, and AMC all exhibited experimental, short range models. There was general agreement that practical models for city use were still years away. Also, the same, if not less cheerful, verdict was given on the outlook for a turbine-powered car–despite the spectacular technical performance of a turbine racer at the Indianapolis 500.
On the corporate front, two of the Big Four auto firms got new headmen. James M. Roche, president of GM, moved up to board chairman,and Edward N. Cole, a GM vice-president, became president. AMC named Roy D. Chapin, Jr., son of one of Detroit’s auto pioneers, as chairman and William V. Luneburg as president, as AMC continued its efforts to attain a profit-making position in the nation’s auto industry.
“Automobile (1967).” Online Table. World Book Advanced. World Book, 2015. Web. 9 June 2015..