Evolution of Cars from 1970s-2010

Topics: Automotive industry, Station wagon, General Motors Pages: 7 (2914 words) Published: March 7, 2011
The automobile industry is known for its constant remodeling and change from year to year. While there are not generally drastic changes, there are societal and cultural changes that affect the styling of the automobiles that companies produce. Beginning in the 1970's there were drastic changes in society that completely altered the products' car companies were distributing, such as the change from muscle cars to smaller fuel efficient economy cars. As time progressed the evolution of popular cars such as the station wagon, minivan, and SUV, were influenced by social, political, and economic factors that inevitable dictated the progression of the automobile industry.

The 1970’s were an era of fuel price increases, and increased awareness for the many facets of the automobile such as safety concerns and emission control. The 1973 oil crisis was the most affecting instance in the 1970's to the automotive market, as well as the first real market crash since the Great Depression. The oil crisis occurred when the members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, proclaimed an oil embargo in response to the U.S. decision to resupply the Israeli military during the Yom Kippur war. In response, OPEC members agreed to use their leverage over the world's oil price setting to raise world oil prices. This action followed several years of steep income declines after the failure of negotiations with the major Western oil companies earlier that month. (State.gov) This had a profound effect on the world economy, because industrialized economies relied on crude oil, and OPEC was their predominant supplier.

The 1973 oil crisis renewed emphasis on economy of vehicle operation, especially in the United States with its greater distances, arguably the nation hardest hit because of the prevalence of large, fuel thirsty cars. At the same time, new emissions and safety regulations were being implemented requiring major and costly changes to domestic vehicle design and construction. Attempts were made to manufacture electric cars, but they were unsuccessful because of the lacking technology. The energy crisis was the largest energy crisis Americans had experienced at that time, causing restrictions on when people could fill up their tanks. Depending on the ending letter or number of a person's license plate correlated with days in the week which they were allowed to fill up; this limit on gasoline caused lines at the gas station that would go on for miles. Those who also used oil for other things, such as heating, felt the rising cost to live by the same standards that they were accustomed to. In response to the lack of fuel consumers began purchasing smaller cars.

New emissions and safety regulations were also being implemented, requiring major and costly changes to domestic vehicle design and construction. The first response by domestic American car makers included the FR layout cars, the AMC Gremlin, Chevrolet Vega, and Ford Pinto. AMC was determined to have the first subcompact offering and 1970 AMC Gremlin sales began six months ahead of the all-new 1971 models from GM and Ford. (How Stuff Works) The Gremlin used the AMC Hornet's existing design with a shortened wheelbase and "chopped" tail, and had an important low price advantage (Sagert). The Chevrolet Vega was introduced in September 1970 which was GM's first subcompact, economy car. Nearly two million were sold over its seven-year production run, due in part to its low price and fuel economy. The Ford Pinto was introduced one day after the Vega. It was small, economical, and a top seller; however, it was proven to have design and safety issues. The editors at Consumer's Guide say that The Pinto made Time magazine's "The 50 worst cars of all-time list" because it tended to erupt in flames when involved in rear end collisions. Several Ford company memos presented as evidence during civil trials revealed that discussions regarding fixing this problem occurred,...

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