Last post on Oct 02, 2011 at 9:47 PM
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#115 of 118 If Only, If Only...
Oct 01, 2011 (2:01 pm)
My thoughts have been circling back to the mid-late '50s Chrysler Corp. cars. GM was generally acknowledged as the post WWII style leader, but for brief periods other domestic automakers stole GM's thunder. One example is the '57 Chrysler Corp. lineup, as we've discussed in recent postings. In thinking about this, maybe the genisis for the '57s dates back to the '30s. Back then, Chrysler made a bold attempt to steel the styling lead with the Airflow. I love those cars, but they failed so miserably in the marketplace, that Chrysler played it safe through '54. Its cars after the Airflow were solid, well engineered, reliable and comfortable, but boring as heck. Then, for '55 Chrysler ditched its staid image and fired a shot across GM's and Ford's bow. The problem is that its two larger competitors also came out with new, winning designs, so Chrysler's offerings made less of an impact than they otherwise would have. I believe the '55 and '56 models succeeded in putting Mopars on a lot more shopping lists than they would have if they had continued to play it safe. In fact, they may have saved the company, because by the early '50s the auto industry had gone from being a sellers' market to a buyers' market, and Chrysler was rapidly losing market share.
I imagine the question at Chrysler in the mid-50s was, okay, now what? The answer was the dramatic, and hugely successful '57s. The problem was that, while Chrysler owners took good quality for granted through the '54 model year, quality started to deteriorate with the '55 models. One example of this was that they rusted quicker. Then, the '57s and beyond were near quality disasters. Body panels were frequently misaligned, fit and finish took a dive, and they rusted even sooner than the '55s and '56s. If only they had been well assembled and had had better rust proofing, Chrysler might have overtaken Ford, by retaining more of the new customers it had acquired.
Of course, Ford and the independents also missed opportunities to become industry leaders. Oh well, if my grandmother had had a moustache she would have been my grandfather, proving that discussions that begin with "if only" are kind of useless.
Oct 01, 2011 (8:04 pm)
I think the first generation Audi A4 deserves honorable mention as one of the best cars of the '90s. The reason I cite this model is that, of all the cars that tried to take on the legendary BMW 3-Series, the A4 came closest to taking the sports sedan crown away from its German rival. One of the interesting things about the A4 was that it was anything but a copy cat of the 3-Series. It featured great original styling and a beautiful interior, and relied heavily on its innovative Quattro system for handling, traction, stability and safety.
In some ways the A4 was arguably better than the 3-Series. Its price was lower, and I, for one, preferred its exterior and interior styling. As is the case with all cars, though, the A4 had its negatives. It was less reliable than the 3-Series, and at least as high maintenance. Also, whereas BMW and Mercedes do a great job of stocking parts for their old models, Audi doesn't.
#117 of 118 Re: If Only, If Only... [hpmctorque]
Oct 02, 2011 (8:39 am)
I always wondered what would have happened if Mopar had held off until 1958 to redesign, rather than rushing those 1957's out. I have a feeling that warmed over '56 models would have still sold pretty well, with the exception of Plymouth. Without an all-new model, they would have given a lot of sales to the all-new Ford most likely, who would have then overtaken Chevy by an even wider margin.
But, further up the ranks, the '57 Pontiac wasn't such a hot seller, and a facelifted '56 Dodge would have probably stacked up well against it. The '57 Olds, Buick, and Cadillac, while all-new, didn't look that radically different from the '56 models. The '57 Mercury, while all-new, didn't go over all that great with the public, either.
This would have meant that those new Forward look cars would have debuted in a recession year, but one reason Chrysler's sales in '58 were so bad was a backlash against the '57's, for quality control issues, so they might have done okay.
Plus, one reason the Fords and GM cars got so garish was in an attempt to out-do what Chrysler was doing, so if Chrysler pushed back their '57's a year, maybe GM wouldn't have gone so over-the-top with their '58 cars, and the '58 style might have lasted through '59, and perhaps been more tasteful.
Then again, maybe not. For 1959, GM was originally planning to update the '58 Chevy with a "central theme", inspired by the Edsel's grille, Tucker's third headlight, etc.
#118 of 118 Re: If Only, If Only... [andre1969]
Oct 02, 2011 (9:47 pm)
"I always wondered what would have happened if Mopar had held off until 1958 to redesign, rather than rushing those 1957's out."
It's a question that's been asked, but to which we'll never know the answer. I think that Chrysler Corp. made a strategic decision to get a jump on the competition, rather than to give its rivals more time to learn its plans and react to them. It seems to me that Chrysler made a decision to assign a lower priority to quality with its '55 cars, and the company continued to execute on that plan with the '57s. Maybe if the '55s and '56s, which were well received, had been even bigger hits, the company could have afforded to keep those platforms in production for another year. However, the competition for styling innovation was fierce in those years. The marketplace rewarded dramatic changes, and Chrysler did its best to satisfy this desire.