75 Years Ago (April 1939): February Car Sales Up; UAW Rift Deepens; Crosley Car Bows

Ward’s Automotive Reports’ Apr. 1, 1939, issue notes new-car sales in 45 selected states rose 32.6% in February over the prior year, to 144,583 units from 109,006. But despite a 26.1% sales increase to 34,355 cars, first-place Chevrolet’s market share declined to 23.8% from 25.0%. Second-place Ford posted a 5.5% sales increase, but its share fell to 19.1% from 24.0% in February 1938. Third-place Plymouth, with sales up 61.5%, saw its market share rise to 14.4% from 11.8% a year earlier. The all-new Mercury grabbed 2.2% of the February market.

At the second of two separate UAW conventions, this one sponsored by the union’s CIO faction, disagreements led to “Communistic elements battling with CIO forces for control,” likely boosting support, in the opinion of WAR, for the group led by President Homer Martin. “It is certain that many delegates went home feeling that Mr. Martin was correct in lashing out against both the CIO and the Communists and purging his followers of their supporters.” The Martin wing already is moving towards affiliation with the AFL, “a step that is likely of consummation in the near future.”

U.S. tire manufacturers are backing a barter proposal that would “trade American reserves of wheat and cotton to Great Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands for rubber and tin reserves.” The proposal would create a U.S. stockpile of 625,000 of crude rubber as a war emergency. Due to the action of the International Rubber Regulation Committee (The IRRC is an outgrowth of the 1934 International Rubber Regulation Agreement among the U.K., India, Netherlands, France and Thailand forming a cartel to restrict world rubber production and maintain stable natural rubber prices.), the U.S. stockpile in April 1939 was estimated at less than a 5-month supply. American interest have sought to establish rubber sources free from the danger of a naval blockade, “but the only ones in the Western hemisphere are at ‘Fordlandia’ in the Brazilian jungle – two large tracts, but neither one is old enough to yield a sizable quantity.”

As of the week-ended Apr. 29, Ward’s counts Crosley among U.S. car makers. Although series production is set to begin “at once,” only three vehicles have been completed thus far – a 2-passenger convertible, 4-passenger convertible coupe and 4-passenger convertible sedan – all of which, beginning “this weekend” will be on display at the World’s Fair in New York. Assembly takes place at a plant in Richmond, IN, with sales to be handled through Crosley’s 25,000 radio and refrigerator dealers. At $325, the base price is “the lowest offered since the Model T Ford was at its lowest levels.” Major parts suppliers include Waukesha Motors (air-cooled 2-cyl. engine), Murray (bodies) and Spicer (rear axles).