Subcompact and Substandard (Part One)

Fifty years ago, Ford and General Motors introduced their first subcompact models to challenge the rising tide of Japanese and European imports. One was underdeveloped and riddled with faults. The other would become an infamous cause célèbre for US safety campaigners.

(c) wheelsage

In the late 1960’s US auto makers were becoming concerned about the growing popularity of small Japanese and European imports. These tended to be basic and unsophisticated, but were also cheap, economical and reliable, particularly when compared to the alternative of a second-hand domestic model. Ford and GM needed to fight back, so set to work developing what would become known as subcompacts.

The Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega were launched within a day of each other in September 1970. Conceptually, they were identical: conventionally engineered front-engined RWD cars that would be available in saloon, hatchback and estate versions. The Vega was slightly larger, with a 3” (75mm) longer wheelbase, although rear seat space in both was occasional at best for adult passengers.

The development of the Vega was highly unusual in that it was controlled, not by Chevrolet, but by an independent team of fifty engineers led by Lloyd Reuss, who reported directly to GM President, Ed Cole. Reuss would himself go on to Continue reading “Subcompact and Substandard (Part One)”

The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Two)

Daniel O’Callaghan continues his digest of Bob Lutz’s 2011 book, ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’, which charts the decline of General Motors and Lutz’s decade-long struggle to rescue it.

(c) consumer guide auto

In an effort to understand better what gave the Japanese manufacturers such an edge in terms of quality and reliability, GM established a joint-venture with Toyota in 1984, the quaintly named New United Motorcar Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) to Continue reading “The Fate of Empires and Search For Survival (Part Two)”

Satellite’s gone – Holden 1948-2020

The announcement of Holden’s retirement on February 17 should have come as no surprise, but the finality and totality of General Motors’ exit from Australia and New Zealand has made worldwide headlines.

Image: ANCAP

As of January 1 2021 GM will withdraw from the Australian and New Zealand markets, even as an importer. They will meet their statutory obligations on service and parts supports and recalls.

For more details, the official announcement can be found here: https://www.holden.com.au/announcement

It’s a rapid decline to oblivion, given that car production only ended at Elizabeth, South Australia in October 2017. However, the sales numbers tell it all; tenth place in the sales charts, 43,176 vehicles sold in Australia in 2019, a fall of 28.9% over the previous year.

Adding in the 11,245 New Zealand registrations, total 2019 sales come to 0.93 White Hens, to Continue reading “Satellite’s gone – Holden 1948-2020”

There’s Something About Mary

Has FCA’s on-off romance with GM entered a new phase?

'I'm sexy and I know it...' Sergio on the pull. Image via benchmarkreporter
‘I’m sexy and I know it…’ Sergio on the pull. Image via benchmarkreporter

Last week two seemingly unrelated news items landed, which taken on face value elicited only mild interest. But to a cut-price Max Warburton such as myself, the two stories add up to something a good deal more intriguing. Continue reading “There’s Something About Mary”

Theme: Concepts – 2000 GM Precept

This was inspired by Sean’s post about Tatra’s retirement from making road-going automobiles and what might have been.

2000 GM Precept concept car in motion
2000 GM Precept concept car in motion

In the last few years of the Clinton administration a sizeable grant was made to the US car builders to help them develop fuel efficient large cars. Among the goals, the companies were to aim for was to reduce fuel use to 80 mpg. We seem to be slowly getting to this although with smaller cars. GM’s response to this grant was the Precept, the appearance of which seems to me to not too unlike a Tatra. Whether this is a case of convergent evolution or actual direct inspiration, I can’t say. Continue reading “Theme: Concepts – 2000 GM Precept”