While the Big Three eagerly await the government’s decision on their bailout, and we continue to debate where they went wrong, you might be surprised to learn the U.S. auto industry has faced these issues before.
“This week Detroit’s Big Three will unveil their long-talked-about little cars,” says the introduction to The Big Three Join the Revolution from the October 3, 1959 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. The Chrysler Valiant, Ford Falcon, and Chevy Corvair were considered “three highly attractive and highly salable products,” but the article noted that General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler were “always conscious that back there somewhere there were a few foreign gleaners picking up some overlooked remnants of the market … In 1957 the crowd of small foreign brands picking up market remnants began growing faster, and by the end of the year had doubled the previous year’s volume.” This begs the question: Did the Big Three automakers ever “get it”?
Although the auto world has changed since 1959, the buyers demand for foreign cars has been on the rise since then. Today the Japanese car manufacturer Toyota is dominating the worldwide market. Consequently Toyota is also the most sold car in the United States. The Big Three are once again playing catch up to the Japanese automakers, this being evident by the statement given by Fords chief executive Alan Mulally in the this excerpt below from the Los Angeles Times.
“In a desperate, collective plea for up to $38 billion in government aid, executives from Detroit’s Big Three automakers told a Senate committee on Thursday they would start to crank out smaller, more fuel-efficient cars and streamline their businesses to stay afloat. “Now we are absolutely committed to exceeding our customers’ expectations for quality, fuel-efficiency, safety, and affordability,” said Ford’s chief executive Alan Mulally. The execs made similar pleas to members of the House of Representatives on Friday.”