52 Years Ago A number of independent car manufacturers are making headlines in March 1948. Tucker Corp. announces the purchase for $1.8 million of the Air Cooled Motors Inc. plant in Syracuse, NY. Tucker says it plans to build air-cooled engines for its upcoming line of sedans at the plant along with airplane engines. Six months earlier the company leased part of a formerplant in Chicago for car assembly.
Crosley Motors Inc., says higher production has allowed it to cut the prices of its diminutive cars by 2% on the sedan to $869 and by 5% on the convertible to $899. Hudson Motor Car Co. loses the equivalent of a day's production when its workers walk off the job to protest the firing of 12 welders charged with "loafing." And post-war upstart, Kaiser-Frazer Corp. builds the 200,000th car at its Willow Run, MI, facility on March 26 - a month later it moves to a six-day work week, but is out of business less than a decade later.
45 Years Ago In March 1955, the now-ubiquitous interstate highway system is still in the planning stage. A proposal is being floated to pay the $101 million tab for building a 40,000-mile (64,000-km) network of "super highways" by adding a penny or 1.5 cents to the 2-cent/gallon federal tax on gasoline for the next 15 to 18 years. Two months earlier President Eisenhower's highway advisory panel recommended construction of such a road system over a 10-year period. In reality, it will take more than two decades to complete the initial 42,500-mile (68,000-km) grid.
On the retail front, the National Automobile Dealers Assn. warns dealers against financing schemes with "crazy credit terms," and "liberal" payment schedules - those in which the buyer "makes little or no down payment and pays off the balance over a long period of time" (i.e. more than 12 months).
At the same time, the Automobile Club of Michigan reports the fixed costs of car ownership - insurance, license plates, registration fees and depreciation - averages $598 annually, excluding 3.5-cents/mile for gasoline, oil, tires and maintenance.
And the United States Rubber Co. (Uniroyal) announces that it is begin-ning volume production of new blue, green and brown colored automobile tires to coordinate with the auto industry's "bright new colors."
20 Years Ago March 1980 finds the United Auto Workers union in Washington pressing its case to Congress for restrictions and/or local content requirements on imported Japanese cars in the face of a sharp U.S. economic recession, high interest rates and slumping domestic-make car sales.
A key provision of the union's proposal is a demand for more Japanese assembly plants in the U.S. (Motor Co. Ltd. already has announced plans for a car plant in Ohio). Although Motor Corp. and Motor Co. Ltd. come out strongly against U.S. plants in congressional hearings, less than a month later Nissan announces plans for a U.S. pickup truck plant.
Meanwhile,Corp. tells its dealers it has ruled out cash rebates on cars to spur sales, while GM dealers worry that GMAC auto finance rates (due largely to a 20% prime rate), are higher than the usury limits in many states.