The American Automobile Industry

"The Post-War Boom"


Alex Sandoval


In the final months of World War II, the automobile industry began expending a lot of money into advertising. There were two messages for the American consumer: First, that automakers were fulfilling their patriotic duty of supporting the war effort; second, that war technology would be used to manufactured better consumer products as soon as the war ended.

Using the streamline cars of the 1930s as a starting point, many car companies put their car designers to work on new designs that would depict the United States as a dominating nation. Advertising really depicted that status. One General Motors commercial, for example, depicted a Buick triumphantly rising from the ashes of war.

The automobile industry was expecting soldiers coming back from war wanting to get on with their lives. The word out was that they would want to start new lives, buy new homes and new cars. They consumer confidence was soaring.

"The expectation after World War II was the good life was finally her"

Alan Hees

Immediately after the war, Detroit began the laborious process of retooling for automobile production. At the beginning many car companies simply offered their old, prewar models. The first cars were nothing fancy or dramatic. It took them two years before completely redesigned products were introduced. People didn't care. They saw those cars as new cars, and they were snatched up in short order. During World War II, the automobile registration fell by four million as cars either died of old age or were store on blocks while their owners went to war. Americans were having trouble getting supply because almost everything seemed to be in short supply during the war; of course, the automobile seemed so vital during that time.

With the collapse of Germany in 1945, the federal government authorized the production of 200,000 passenger cars. At the same time production limits were lifted, and the city of Detroit started to shift cars as quickly as possible in order to keep up with demand. Automobile manufacturers also ran into many problems. Technical problems specifically the retooling process led to delays in production and also labor problems were present. Despite all these problems assembly lines were moving at full speed. In 1947 the first post-war design was the Studebaker, this car made its dayview in many showrooms around the country.


Of the big three car companies, Ford emerged from World War II with an amazing number of cars. Despite receiving billions of dollars in military contracts, the company couldn't make profit. With management problems, Ford lost as much as $10 million a month during the war. At the other end, General Motors and Chrysler dealt with the war years reasonably well, mainly because of consistent leadership in their executive officers.

The first completely redesigned postwar car produced by one of the Big Three was the 1949 Ford, which was in June of 1948 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. The other two companies, General Motors and Chrysler, has simply made slight changes to their 1942 models and sold them to the public. This new car drew the attention of many customers. The '49 Ford was different. Aside from its reliable V-8 engine, this car was longer, sleeker, and most of all stylish. The '49 Ford looked great. Customers were willing to accept few problems as long as they were repaired quickly. At Ford headquarters there was a collective sigh of relief. After problems and losses that had lasted more than, business was booming. Ford.html

The car market was so strong that the post-war boom gave rise to several new independent cars manufacturers. Among the more noticeable were Preston Tucker, a Chicago business man who created 51 remarkable automobiles before his company folded and he was indited on 31 counts of fraud. Another team in the automobile industry was the partnership between Kaiser and Joseph W. Frazer, president of the Graham- Paige Motor Company. The Kaiser-Frazer Corp [oration became one big player in the automotive game. Within two years the Kaiser-Frazer line had claimed 5% of the domestic passenger car market. This partnership didn't last for too long. As the Big Three companies finished the post-war retooling process and began to design new models, the new car companies couldn't keep up with the already established companies. Some other designs were the 1950 Hudson Pacemaker 500, the 1951 Buick Le Sabre, and the critically acclaimed 1951 Kaiser. The Hudson was considered a fine car, but sells fell down went the company felt the pressure of the Big Three.keiser.html

During the boom of new cars, many more problems were going on. The crash of the stock market on October 26, 1929 caused no panic; recessions had been faced before. Sales were falling off steadily and in the face of a shrinking market there was nothing to do but try to hold some balance between production and sales and that could only be done by curtailing output. Both birth and death rates were low in 1929. Competition was too hot to encourage risk capital; profits were adequate to keep most well established companies afloat.

During the decade 1920 and 1929, there have been 67 new companies formed and 161 on which the curtain fell. Since 1900, 882 companies had failed or retired from business and there was now only 26 left to fight their lives. It was impossible to become an automobile manufacturer by buying components from parts companies and assembling them, but it was impossible to cut much of a figure this way to survive in competition. Fifty five percent of the companies in business in 1920-1954 were assembling to extent to buying their engines; by 1929 the number had dropped to 35% and they were small producers. With competition at fever heat, the car manufacturer could ill afford to share any profits with suppliers. Companies were growing more vertical as well as horizontally. The rich were getting richer; and the poor were getting poorer The only ones that resisted the pressure of the automobile industry were the Big Three: General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford. Until these days these three companies are the ones that hold much of the share in the American Automobile Industry.



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