(I saw this at AN this morning, and had to share it, as we’re historians here at heart. Unfortunately, AN did not include links to the actual stories. But this is where you come in.)
1954: Reduction of “phantom-freight” charges
1955: (tie) Senate hearings on auto trade practices; attainment of supplemental unemployment compensation by the UAW
1958: Enactment of price-sticker law
1960: Chrysler’s conflict-of-interest problems; a president is deposed, and other executives are affected
1961: Antitrust actions filed against the Big 3; GM accused in Los Angeles discount-house rhubarb; Ford’s acquisition of Electric Autolite properties questioned; Chrysler charged with pressuring dealers not to dual with Studebaker
1962: Future of the franchise system: Los Angeles antitrust suit against GM viewed as threat to franchise
1963: GM wins criminal antitrust suit growing out of Los Angeles discount-house situation
1964: Record truck sales and the first 8-million-car year.
1965: “The Year of Records”: All-time highs in sales and production of domestic cars and trucks
1966: Safety: Congress holds hearings; bills are passed; William Haddon is appointed safety czar; standards are proposed for 1968 models
1967: 61-day strike costs Ford Motor 500,000 cars; Big 3 workers receive a raise of about $1 an hour in wages and fringes over three years
1968: Bunkie Knudsen named president of Ford Motor a week after he quit as executive vice president of GM
1969: Bunkie Knudsen fired as president of Ford Motor after holding the job for 19 months
1970: UAW strike shuts GM for 67 days in the United States, 95 days in Canada; the strike costs GM production of more than 1.5 million cars and trucks and more than $4.5 billion in sales
1971: President Nixon’s economic program and its effect on the auto industry: Prices and wages are frozen; import duty is raised temporarily; currency is revalued; excise tax is repealed; program touches off auto sales boom
1972: Wankel engine advances: GM plans to offer Wankel-powered Chevrolet Vega in 1975 model year; other makers watch and wait; Mazda, with the only Wankel-powered cars in the United States, has a big year
1973: The energy crisis: Arabs halt oil exports to United States; gas rationing feared; uncertainty hurts auto industry and entire economy
1974: New-car sales (U.S. and import) fall to 8.6 million in 1974; 1975 model year is off to a dismal start
1975: U.S. automakers offer rebates of $200 to $500 to move huge inventories
1976: Auto sales rebound after two poor years, reaching 9.96 million for 1976; intermediates and big cars are hot, but small cars are hard to sell
1977: Government orders airbags on new cars, to be phased in with 1982 models; industry fails in bid to have Congress override Department of Transportation decision
1978: The fall and rise of Lee Iacocca, who is fired by Henry Ford II as president of Ford Motor in mid-July, then becomes president of Chrysler in November
1979: Chrysler’s financial anguish: Federal loan guarantees sought; future of company in doubt
1980: GM, Ford, Chrysler, American Motors suffer combined loss of $4.2 billion for the year
1981: Another year of recession/depression for the domestic auto industry
1982: John DeLorean is arrested on drug-trafficking charges; he is later found not guilty; his sports car company folds
1983: A year of recovery for the domestic auto industry; sales and production rise after three bad years
1984: Record profits for each of the Big 3 as well as a record profit of $9.8 billion for the four domestic automakers
1985: Big 3 on buying binge: GM, Ford and Chrysler make major acquisitions outside the automotive field; biggest is GM’s $5 billion purchase of Hughes Aircraft
1986: Turmoil at GM: Market share dips; plants to close; Saturn scaled back; plastic-bodied Camaro-Firebird dropped; bus operations for sale; Volvo to run heavy-truck venture; GM has third-quarter operating loss of $338 million
1987: Chrysler buys AMC
1988: The sleeping giant stirs: GM’s profits rise; car-market share stabilizes; new models aren’t look-alikes; quality improves; overseas operations in high gear
1989: After eight quiet years, Washington again becomes a major thorn in the side of the auto industry; President Bush and Congress talk about tighter emissions rules, much higher fuel-economy standards and alternative-fuel cars
1990: GM’s Saturn arrives after seven years of development; the car gets good reviews, pleases shoppers and dealers, but production problems hold output to a trickle, delaying evaluation of Saturn’s sales success
1991: Car and truck sales drop 12 percent from a mediocre 1990; GM, Ford and Chrysler deep in red; end of Persian Gulf war fails to ignite sales; GM announces massive cost-cutting program and cutbacks in personnel and facilities as year ends
1992: The bloodbath at GM: Long-passive outside directors rise in revolt as staggering losses continue; chairman, vice chairman, president and two executive vice presidents ousted; Jack Smith named chief executive, and John Smale is first outside chairman since 1937
1993: J. Ignacio Lopez quits GM and joins Volkswagen; GM says he stole secret documents; Lopez and VW deny it; FBI and German court investigate as year ends
1994: Sixteen former Honda managers and two former dealers are indicted in U.S. probe of bribes and kickbacks in wholesale organization; all but three plead guilty
1995: Kirk Kerkorian, Chrysler’s second-largest shareholder, makes a takeover run at Chrysler in April, but Chairman Robert Eaton beats it down
1996: Airbags kill kids and small adults; NHTSA delay means no action until 1997 on whether to order lower-powered bags or allow owners to disconnect them
1997: In less than a year, H. Wayne Huizenga’s Republic Industries Inc. becomes the nation’s largest new-car dealership group, with 270 franchises and annual revenue of $10.3 billion; acquisitions continue; Republic wins fight with Toyota
1998: Daimler-Benz and Chrysler Corp. combine as DaimlerChrysler AG, with Daimler as the lead pony; headquarters are in Stuttgart; Juergen Schrempp and Robert Eaton are said to be co-CEOs
1999: U.S. sales set a record of 16.9 million cars and light trucks; the old record was 16,025,426 in 1986
2000: Chrysler in crisis. Daimler’s Schrempp admits that he planned from the beginning to make Chrysler a division; the Chrysler group loses about $1.8 billion in the second half of the year; heads roll in Auburn Hills, Mich., starting with President Jim Holden; Dieter Zetsche heads the Chrysler group in the United States, and Wolfgang Bernhard is COO
2001: Ford Motor Co. fires Jac Nasser as CEO and president; Bill Ford (the fourth generation) succeeds Nasser as CEO and continues as chairman
2002: Ford’s financial and quality problems continue; a turnaround strategy, announced in January, includes a pledge to deliver $7 billion annual pretax profit by 2005 after losing $5.45 billion in 2001; Bill Ford brings back Allan Gilmour as CFO
2003: The Big 3 moved the iron with high incentives but lost market share again; Big 3 share fell to 60.0 percent, down 1.7 points from 2002
2004: Rebates remain sky-high; sales continue near 17 million despite weak fundamentals; Asians boost market share; Big 3 and others try new incentives
2005: Delphi Corp., the world’s largest auto supplier, files for bankruptcy protection. GM refuses to bail out Delphi, its former property; Delphi CEO Steve Miller wants to cut wages in half and reduce benefits; UAW threatens a killer strike that would cripple GM
2006: An awful year for Detroit 3. Ford loses $5.8 billion in third quarter; the Chrysler group, felled by sales bank, loses $1.5 billion; GM makes progress but is still light years from financial health. Detroit 3 lose 3.2 points of market share in 11 months; Japanese gain 2.2 points
2007: The Detroit 3 closed the gap in labor costs with their Japanese rivals. The car companies agreed to pay about 55 cents on the dollar to shift nearly $100 billion in combined retiree health care obligations to UAW-controlled trusts. The UAW also relented on two-tier wages that allow the Detroit 3 to replace workers earning $28 an hour with new hires earning half that wage.
2008: It was a tough year from start to finish, and it ended with GM and Chrysler on their knees before Congress begging for money to keep operating. Ford was in better shape, but it wanted a line of credit.
They didn’t get anything from Congress, but GM and Chrysler did get a $17.4 billion loan from President Bush and the Treasury Department.
2009: The industry slump went from bad to worse, and two of the Detroit 3 — GM and Chrysler — filed for Chapter 11 reorganization. The good news: Most of the hard work was done in advance, and each of companies emerged from bankruptcy in less than six weeks.
2010: The industry began to claw its way back, but Toyota didn’t share in the recovery. Allegations of unintended acceleration sparked a heated safety controversy, ugly headlines and global recalls of millions of units. Toyota’s prime asset — a pristine reputation for quality — was seriously tarnished. The company lost U.S. market share, along with the trust of many shoppers.
2011: On March 11, a massive earthquake rocked northeast Japan and a devastating tsunami followed. Thousands died, and Japan’s auto industry was severely wounded, deep into the supply chain. Shortages of vehicles and parts disrupted the global auto market through the year. In the United States, vehicle shortages stifled a modest sales recovery that had been taking root.
2012: North America was the world’s hottest auto market. And coupled with that sizzling demand was a new leanness — painfully achieved during the recession — that helped dealerships, automakers and suppliers to a very profitable year.
2013: GM, as part of its biggest personnel shake-up since 1992, named product development chief Mary Barra to succeed Dan Akerson as CEO. Barra, an engineer and GM lifer who had spent much of her career working inside the company’s plants, will become the first woman to run a major global carmaker.
2014: For GM, 2014 became the Year of the Recall, as defective ignition switches linked to more than 40 deaths erupted into a full-blown crisis for CEO Barra just weeks into her new job. Revamped safety protocols unleashed a record string of recalls, covering more than 30 million vehicles globally.
2015: Volkswagen AG admits that it cheated on diesel emissions tests by installing software on vehicles that turned on emissions controls during testing and turned them off afterward, enabling the vehicles to pass U.S. emissions tests. The company said it had sold 11 million vehicles worldwide that could be in breach of regulations. The scandal cost CEO Martin Winterkorn his job, as well as those of Audi r&d chief Ulrich Hackenberg and others. Settlement costs were expected to be in the tens of billions of dollars.
2016: Donald Trump wins the U.S. presidential election. As a candidate, Trump had the auto industry in his crosshairs on the campaign trail. He called out Ford Motor Co. for moving jobs to Mexico, and called for a repeal of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he said was destroying jobs. With Trump’s election victory, the industry awaits signs that indicate how his policies will affect business.
2017: Virtually every automaker becomes an electric vehicle evangelist. It’s now easier to list which automakers do not plan to electrify most or all of their offerings than to keep track of the ambitious plans announced in 2017. Among them: Volvo said every vehicle it builds starting in 2019 will have an electric motor. General Motors said it has 20 EVs coming by 2023, and Toyota plans more than 10 by early next decade. All told, more than 100 battery-electric models are headed to dealerships globally within five years.
2018: Carlos Ghosn, head of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, was indicted in November on charges that he underreported his income by about $82 million and misused company assets for personal gain. Nissan Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors quickly ousted him as chairman, but Renault was less eager to part ways with its CEO after his arrest in Japan. The situation cast a pall of uncertainty over the future of the alliance, which has held together largely because of Ghosn’s efforts.
Update: Carlos Ghosn’s dramatic escape from Japan qualifies as a last minute 2019 top story addendum.
This is quite a walk through history. It tells us something about the state of things in 1963 when GM beating an antitrust action elbowed another story out of the way – the shutting down of U.S. operations of the oldest vehicle manufacturer in the world. The GM story undoubtedly affected many more people in many more ways.
No mentions of Tesla. Does this mean that specific brand isn’t as significant as general EV trends (listed for 2017 only), or that AN’s view of the domestic industry is “big 3” centric? Evidence of the latter is the fact that there’s no mention of the demise of Studebaker either.
In the “prosperous” 50s, auto makers were selling about 6 million vehicles/year (average) and making money. In the “terrible” 70s, 80s, early 90s and later, they were selling millions more than that annually–and they still can’t make money?
Also, update 1996: Are airbags still killing people?
The break even point, is horribly, pointlessly, ridiculously high for Detroit big three, and after seeing through it is still hard to believe.
Picking few pieces of turkey meat from Detroit big three can probably feed entire South America auto business. Nowhere else, can manage to achieve such an unbelieving high break event point.
But on the other hand, if every business operates like Detroit big three, everyone would be well paid with long vacation at least. ( 16 holidays + 15 vacation days, with additional 5-10 days of not in the work mood, plus……. plus a nice day to enjoy yourself after voting )
Regarding frontal airbags, they were allowed to be “depowered” starting with the 1998 model year. Also, there were massive publicity campaigns urging people to always wear seat belts and place children under 13 in rear seats using appropriate restraints (car seats, boosters, or seat belts). Deaths dropped to near zero in a very short time. Later in the 2000s, more advanced frontal airbags, tailored to crash severity, passenger weight, and often, seat track position, were phased in.
How could the top story of 1964 not have been the introduction of and the spectacular success of the Mustang? Truck sales – really?
Because it’s today’s self important perspective. Light trucks are all the rage and are certain to never fade in popularity like the Mustang eventually did, therefore more notable apparently.
This is annual voting selected by editors and reporters of Automotive News at year end at the time.
Though its sales set a new car sales record, and created a new segment, the cultural legacy of the Mustang had not been established yet.
I had never know just how devastating the Livonia transmission plant fire was. I knew that some cars in 1953 got Dynaflows instead of Hydra-Matics because of the fire, but it’s amazing that production of the Hydra-Matic could resume so quickly.
Having Kaiser-Willys desperate to sell Willow Run helped. Also, much of the machinery was probably salvageable.
My father had a 1953 Pontiac with Hydra-Matic. It’s shift quadrant was the usual N-D1-D2-L-R. I was a car crazed little kid in the fifties and always liked looking at other Pontiacs to see how they compared with Dad’s. One day a relative of a neighborhood friend came to visit in his ‘53 Pontiac, so naturally I checked it out. Imagine my shock when I noticed it’s shift quadrant as P-N-D-L! It wasn’t until decades later when I learned this was one of the rare Powerglide Pontiacs built after the Livonia fire.
There were also a few 1953 Dynaflow Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs built, but I have never seen any.
They sure called it wrong on 1972
It’s easy to forget, since it mostly didn’t happen, how pervasive rotarymania was in ’72. It was the engine of the future, until it wasn’t.
They also missed the birth of Tesla and the Model S as the first really practical and desirable electric car in modern times.
I like how the snippets grow from caveman like grunts to long paragraphs as the internet era takes over the news…
1979: Chrysler’s financial anguish: Federal loan guarantees sought; future of company in doubt
2019: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles finally found a partner, though not before Sergio Marchionne’s untimely death in 2018. FCA pairing up with PSA would create the world’s fourth-largest automaker — bigger than Ford Motor Co. and General Motors — and give it the global scale that Marchionne insisted was necessary to compete. The deal that sprang from the friendship of current FCA CEO Mike Manley and PSA CEO Carlos Tavares has the potential to reshape the global auto industry.
Yack yack yack! Let me condense that to 1979 level of reverence:
2019: FCA merged with PSA, future of company in doubt.
There’s an excellent book aptly named “Riding the Roller Coaster” by Charles K Hyde which chronicles the numerous ups and downs of Chrysler. For each decade, Chrysler would fall from the top of its game into the shit box and back again. Arrogance and complacency appear to be the biggest issues.
The book covers Maxwell Motors (1925) thru Daimler-Chrysler (2002). There’s enough material for a follow up book on the sale of Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management, the Great Depression, TARP funding, FIAT absorbing Chrysler, and the PSA offer.
The problem is that the follow up will read exactly like the first book.
Has anybody at Chrysler learned their lessons or will they repeat the same mistakes every 10 to 15 years?
I really enjoyed the article, especially the link re the Livonia fire. I was aware of the fire, but this really fleshed out the story. Thank you and a Happy New Year to you & yours.
Can you imagine the toxic cloud for the 1953 fire. Oil, grease, lubricants, tar, asbestos, asphalt, etc.
Not a place to be while retrieving tool making equipment caught in the fire.
Reading this gives one an appreciation of the ups and downs of the American car industry, and how fast fortunes can change for better or worse. All of these events happened during my lifetime, but even after becoming car aware around 1957-58 or so, I have no memory of the “inside baseball” issues (Monroney labels, antitrust actions, labor strife, Chrysler management scandal of 1960) until about the mid 60s.
I do clearly recall the introduction of the Corvair, Falcon, and Valiant; the record sales year of 1965 led by GM’s new styling of its big cars (fantastic IMO), and the call for improved car safety in 1966, after Ralph Nader’s book came out late in 65.
I also remember the day in December 1963 when I heard on the evening news that Studebaker was shutting down the South Bend plant.