Skip navigation
WardsAuto Flashback – December 2012

WardsAuto Flashback – December 2012

1928 "Year of the Dealer," Pierce-Arrow declares bankruptcy; AMC builds last Eagle and more December news from the WardsAuto archives.  

Cram's plans for New York Auto Show, auto makers 5 million build and AMC's axing of the original CUV highlight Decembers in automotive history, as covered by Ward's.

85 Years Ago (Dec 1927): 1928 to Be Year of the Dealer; Makers Gear Up for New York Auto Show

1928 will be a “year of dealer in the automotive industry,” Cram’s Automotive Reports (predecessor to Ward’s Automotive Reports) declares inDealer Position In Industry to Be Strengthened In 1928, in the Dec. 17, 1927, issue. Cram’s says “In our opinion, based upon an intimate knowledge of present conditions and immediate future plans, the dealer organizations will be, more than ever before, the deciding factors in the successes or failures that will be written during the next 12 months…As a matter of fact, it is quite apparent that the industry leaders feel likewise, for there are unmistakable signs of giving the dealer organization greater co-operation and consideration than ever before...The manufacturers making the greatest strides in this direction will likewise make the greatest strides in business progress.”

“All Roads Lead To New York For Automotive Industrydeclares Cram’s Dec, 31, issue, addressing the upcoming Jan. 4-14, 1928, New York Auto Show to be held in Grand Central Place. The story notes, “Every vehicle manufacturer in the country will exhibit to his dealer organization and to the general public his 1928 products.” In a sidebar, the publication tells subscribers, “During New York Show week, B.H. Cram, president of Cram’s Automotive Reports Inc., together with a staff, will maintain headquarters at the Vanderbilt Hotel...Any client desiring information concerning displays is urged to wire or write Mr. Cram at the above address and his requests will be given immediate attention.”

75 Years Ago (Dec 1937): Second-Best Vehicle Production; Pierce-Arrow Bankrupt; Grand Jury Dismissed

Production in 1937 will reach 5.0 million-plus cars and trucks, second only to 1929’s record 5,621,715 units, Wards Automotive Reports forecasts in its Dec. 25, 1937 newsletter. In 1937 Was Changing Year, WAR says the 1937 tally will include a record 910,000 trucks and commercial cars (the latter being light-delivery vehicles based on passenger-car components). The story points out the year began strong with assembly plants, faced with periodic strikes, hard-pressed to meet mounting dealer order backlogs. But the midyear onset of an economic recession coupled with fall price hikes totaling as much as 10% and competition from a glut of used cars “put the brakes on sales and production in the second half of the year.” At the same time, banks and finance companies “moved in early fall to curtail the finance period from 24 months to 18 months with somewhat of an increase desired in the original down payment.”

Storied luxury-car maker Pierce-Arrow Corp., founded in 1901 and owned since 1932 by a group of investors, files voluntary bankruptcy, having built only 55 cars at its now closed Buffalo, NY, plant in the first 11 months of 1937. Output in 1936 totaled 1,093. The auto maker says it is taking the action to “preserve the status quo” while its reorganization plan moves forward. (The company is liquidated in May 1938 with Seagrave Fire Apparatus, acquiring the rights to P-A’s V-12 engine that will, in various forms, power Seagrave fire engines up to the early 1970s.)

To the relief of Chrysler, Ford and General Motors executives, a Milwaukee, WI, Federal Court judge dismisses a Grand Jury looking into charges of collusion in auto financing. The move comes with the understanding that the U.S. Dept. of Justice is negotiating a consent decree with the three auto makers.

50 Years Ago (Dec 1962): Dealer Inventory Low; Cadillac Expands; GM Turbo Engines

Thanks to booming ’63-model sales, U.S. domestic-make dealers open December with the lowest days’ supply of new cars since 1959, notes WAR’s  Dec. 10, 1962, issue. The 749,600 cars on hand Nov. 30 equaled a mere 28.5 days,’ down from 30.2 the prior year and 45.8 in like-1960. The Nov. 30 days’ supply count is virtually the same as the 28.3 days’ posted three years earlier, when a United Steel Workers union strike severely curtailed production. At the low end, standard Pontiac (less the compact Tempest) and Cadillac models fall into WAR’s 15 days’-or-less grouping, while Mercury Monterey, at the high end, is the only model in the 31-35 days’ range.

Cadillac says it is planning a two-year expansion of its Detroit assembly and engineering facilities. While the auto maker is mum about the dollar value, analysts peg the cost at $55 million. Most of the work, including a new parking structure and engineering building, is slated for Cadillac’s Clark St. complex, where the administration building also will be enlarged and “modernized.” In addition, a warehouse will be built at the division’s Detroit press plant.

Production of GM cars with turbocharged engines will reach some 24,000 in 1962, WAR forecasts. Chevy Corvair’s air-cooled 145-cid, 150-hp H-6 accounts for 16,000 units along with 8,000 of the 215-hp, 215-cid V-8s used in Olds’ F-85 Jetfire coupe and convertible.

25 Years Ago (Dec 1987): Record Truck Output; Ford Eyes VW Plant; Last 4WD Eagle Built

WAR says on Dec. 28 that U.S. truck production, “buoyed by soaring demand for light-duty” models will reach a record 3.8 million-plus units in 1987, besting the prior high point of 3,722,000 posted in 1978, just before the 1979 onset of a deep recession, resulting from high inflation and the country’s second fuel shortage in six years. Production bottomed out at 1,638,000 trucks in 1980.

Ford confirms it has some interest in acquiring Volkswagen of America’s Westmoreland, PA, plant that will close at the end of the ’88 model year. Ford says it will notify the state within 30 to 60 days if it wants to purchase the facility. Chrysler began building the plant, called New Stanton after the nearby city, in the early 1970s, but sold the unfinished facility mid-decade as its finances began to falter. VW opened the plant, re-named Westmoreland for the county in which it is located, in 1978. Production began with the Rabbit (Golf) hatchback, but a Rabbit-based pickup was built there in 1979-1983 and the Jetta sedan was added in 1986.

Chrysler builds the last 4-wheel-drive Eagle station wagon at the former American Motors plant in Brampton, ON, Canada, Dec. 14. Developed as an ’80-model all-wheel-drive variant of AMC’s aging rear-drive Concord compact (debuting as the Hornet in fall 1969), the wagon was joined for a time by 2- and 4-door sedans. But other than the substitution of fuel-saving part-time AWD in ’81, the Eagle remained basically unchanged over the years. The same AWD system also was used on the short-lived Eagle SX4 based on AMC’s smaller Gremlin/Spirit models.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.