General Motors Throughout The World

Detroit Renaissance Center

It should come as little shock that the biggest factory in Detroit, based in the Renaissance Center, belongs to General Motors but this isn’t their only plant. How much does it account for in the grand scheme of their manufacturing and just how did GM become such a major player?

Plant Locations:

There are hundreds of factories around the world employing tens of thousands of people. The size of the GM payroll and how widespread it is, could be a reason they’re a major player. Let’s take a closer look at some of these locations.

In the US:

There are more than 100 facilities in cities across the US, including Arlington and Bay City. Of specific note is the Cadillac. These include assembly plants as well as part stamping plants, propulsion component and battery plants. Most, however, are distribution centers. Still, they’re vital parts of the local economies as it gives smaller communities a tie into a global product.

In the internet age it’s hard to grasp how difficult it was for a smaller city to bring in big business with international sales. It took something that required a lot of parts and that sold all over the world in high volume. This could be one reason GM is considered a major player.

Equinox

The GM Defence Concord Facility makes vehicles especially for the army. They have a factory in North Carolina which was previously used to make Chevrolets. GM has a long tie with defense contracts which could be another reason they’re a major business.

Mexico

There are several factories in Mexico, including the Equinox and the Trax. Vehicles such as the Saab and the Oldsmobile used to be made in Mexico. They also make pickups and various other trucks.

Canada

1907 McLaughlin

The link between GM and Canada has a long vintage; all the way back to 1907 when McLaughlin and Buick were contracted to make Buick cars. After successfully making Buicks for several years McLaughlin sold Buick stock in order to obtain a foothold into GM stock. McLaughlin joined GM Detroit, forging a strong link.

The GM’s main center is called the Canadian Regional Centre and works with many countries around the world. Although you may hear of some factories closing, such as one in 2017 it still makes cars such as the Chevrolet and the Pontiac.

Brazil

’78 Opala

General Motors do Brasil began in 1925. It did final assembly from various parts imported from the US and was based in the city of San Paolo. The first car produced was an Opala, a type of Chevrolet.

One million Opalas were made in Brazil, and it was even used by the Brazilian police as well as the taxi service. The name comes from Opal, a German subsection of GM. The first version was a 4-door sedan and was available in “Especial” (Special) and “Luxo” (Deluxe).

Europe

In Europe the General Motors brand has been less than successful with names such as Opel and Vauxhall not actually capturing the public imagination. People seem to prefer the German cars-those being BMW, Merc and VW. The business was eventually sold to the PSA Group who own such names as Citroen and Peugeot.

This was GM cutting their losses—no real way to hide it – and what a loss. According to official figures the venture eventually lost $39 billion. Only a major player can lose $39 billion and survive.

China

In China things appear so much better with promising sales on Buicks, Chevrolets and Baojun and Wuling. Don’t recognize those last two? Don’t feel bad they’re clearly not available in your market. There are several other vehicles brands Westerners won’t recognize.

Baojun Advertisement

Wuling originally made very small vans until it joined with GM in 2002 where it began to manufacture small trucks as well.

Baojun was created a few years after Wuling (in 2010) with the goal to create what was known as “farmer’s cars.” It’s first vehicle looked like a cross between a Chevrolet and a Daewoo and the latest vehicle is a MPV – multi-purpose vehicle with seven seats. They have to their name, a number of crossovers, compacts, and electric vehicles. There are so many Baojuns out there that they could have their own article.

Wuling

If you own a new car in North America, South America or China then the chances are that it’s a General Motors vehicle. The magnitude of the company cannot be easily stated.

Editors Note: Here at the Kicker we’re working with the descendants of legendary Harley Earl to get a story about the early days of GM. His official story can be seen in the documentary, “Fins,” the making of which has tied up our dig into this era of GM (they had the exclusive scoop). But there is more to the story than the film reveals so we’ll be coming to you soon with more on the era of GM’s hay day.

New Car Rules And Guidelines

A new president in the US means new legislation. Specifically the amount of emission of a new car as well as the number of new EV – electric vehicles – on the market.

Congress plans to add $2500 to the amount of credit to US EVs with a possible additional $2500 if unions are involved. This means that more electric vehicles can be made – SUVs. pick-up trucks or whatever.

Joe Biden proclaims himself as “American car guy” but more precisely “American e-car guy”. In 2021 only 5% of all car sales were electric. There also needs to be a massive investment in charging stations. But it’s none too clear where they should be.

Although the path to further electric cars seems a path we will have to follow eventually it is still highly expensive and as a result controversial.

The vehicle metals need to be shipped from abroad. Many US citizens wish this wasn’t so and they were using metals from US mines though it primarily went into battery parts for the US market.

Previously there was a reliance on China for metals, which will be reversed by this legislation. The metal will come from such places as Canada and Brazil.

What will become or 2021?

2021 may seem like a pivotal year with the theme of “Build Back Better,” and it’s great PR to make bold claims, but how do these ideas stack up?

There’s a feeling in the air that it’s something that needs to happen but not exactly right now. Volvo for instance wants to remove combustion engine “tech” by 2030. General Motors wants to remove any emissions from the tailpipe by 2035. It’s not clear if this will be reached because of the 2021 legislation.

One way to tackle gas emissions in an increase in loans and funding, as suggested by the Environmental & Energy Program. There’s a number of costs involved in e-cars, such as expensive lithium batteries and the difficulties in charging the cars, when compared with filling up on gas or diesel it takes too long. Or so the current surveys may suggest…

There are also regulations designed to make passenger cars more efficient and decrease how much carbon dioxide it produces. It also affects light trucks – exactly why heavy trucks are omitted is unclear because the same agency (Corporate Agency Fuel Economy) also deals with larger vehicles. Nor does it seem to affect SUVs or crossovers, again vehicles known for their substantiality over their economy.

When compared to previous initiatives:

NY City Now

In 1970 congress passed the Clean Air Act and established the EPA to champion the cause. According to the EPA’s own site the 1970’s clean air act was a success(https://www.epa.gov/transportation-air-pollution-and-climate-change/accomplishments-and-success-air-pollution-transportation), but it’s noteworthy that US automakers couldn’t meet the standards by the initial deadline. They were nearly impossible to meet, although Japanese automakers Honda made it by the deadline and almost became the only brand allowed to be sold in the US. Congress ultimately extended the deadline giving US makers a chance to catch up.

NY City Pre Clean Air Act

By comparison, these new rules – not exactly laws – seem to have been led by public demand. The previous rules were hard for the companies to use, a far too high standard, these ones seem more realistic. There are always pressures from various quarters to bring down the numbers. Emissions are coming down but it’s not a steep decline.

This standard is expected to stay stable until 2026. They are based on ideas of being “tougher but feasible” according to Congress, ensuring that cars are safe and remain relatively affordable. It’s a compromise but it had to be in order to make progress.

On the subject of progress, there is some way to go. The companies which are agreeing to these changes make up only 30% of all cars sold in the US. Could it be described as only a token victory? Perhaps.

The Glory Days of AMC Cars

Pacer not a Pinto

Without a doubt, the golden era for AMC was the 1970’s, and we mean golden in more ways than one.

A report by the CAP-HPI around five years ago suggested that AMC seventies models with a copper bronze hue or even custard yellow were on the way up. Despite the car industry changing in the intervening years many cars of this vintage remain popular.

Side Note: CAP produces a black book analyses the used car market, similar to Kelley Blue Book only based on large scale market.

Setting Themselves Apart:

AMC, American Motor Corporation, looked to be different than other automakers and came up with an SUV style vehicle, the Eagle. It looked like a cross between an all-terrain vehicle and a passenger car, with a long hood but about the same size as a VW Beetle. They were manufactured by AMC & Chrysler between 1979 and 1987.

It had the alternate name of the Eagle Wagon which makes sense if you see one. According to an article written for Newsweek in 1979 it was the only four-wheel drive passenger vehicle made at the time. It could also be thought of as the first crossover.

Was this a gamble? Possibly, after all there was no established market for such a car. There doesn’t appear to be a genuine effort at market research on AMC’s part, only a prediction that “consumers would embrace a vehicle with the comfort of an automobile (sic) but with capabilities of an all-terrain vehicle.”

The design came from Ray Lunn who was the chief designer for the AMC Jeep. It was given the convoluted code name of “Project 8001 plus Four.” Having a uni-body was vital to the design; a unitized body means a vehicle frame or chassis is purpose made for the car in question. Unibody was not a common thing in ATV’s of the time, since people who like to take their cars off-road also like to pound out dents from going off road—not a strength of the unibody design.

Other AMC Oddities:

In perhaps the weirdest product crossover some Hornets and Gremlins could be ordered with denim interiors in the 1970s created by jean manufacturer Levi. It can’t be the best substance to keep clean though.

The AMC Hornet shouldn’t be confused with the Green Hornet or the Hudson Hornet. As with most of the cars referred to here, it was only produced in the ‘70s. A compact which came as either a sedan, or a station wagon. The Hornet had the same platform as the Gremlin, the Eagle and the Spirit, among others.

Gremlin

The Gremlin has a reputation as an ugly and therefore bad car. In fact, gremlins are mythical creatures that destroy machines so it’s a terrible name for a car line. The truth is the Gremlin was ahead of its time; a sub-compact manufactured in both the US and Mexico by AMC. It was produced a long time before the 1985 film of the same name.

What’s a Matador?

Today we might honestly ask that, but ironically an AMC 1970’s advertising campaign asked, “What’s a Matador?” The twist is that at the time AMC Matador was the car to have, superseding the AMC Rebel. A two-door hardtop, it had the export name “Rambler Matador.” They also became the car used by the LA Police Department for a while.

(Trivia section: What car did the AMC Matador replace? The answer is below.)

One way that the costs were kept down in AMC cars was having parts such as the distributor, starter and carburettor shared with companies like Ford. Not many people realise that AMC manufactured engines for other company’s cars when practical.

In the end, AMC was purchased in 1987 by Chrysler who continued some of the car lines for a few years and then phased them out.

Answer to the question above: The AMC Matador replaced the Plymouth Satellite as the car used by the LA PD.

Why Do We Say “Sports Car”?

What do we really mean when we say sports car? The obvious answer is a car optimized for performance, with a focus on focus on handling and a dynamic appearance. We seldom think about the factors that go into performance which in turn create an iconic look. For example, you may not know that a sports car needs to be low-built (or built low to the ground). A lower car is more has a lower center of gravity and is more aerodynamic. It also makes the car look more attractive.

Why are sports cars pricier than other cars?

One of the reasons is the engine. Another thing is supply and demand, only a few Ferrari f12 tdFs are made. Instead of being marketed to the masses they are sold by invitation only–in order to buy them you need to know the Ferrari family. It’s strange to think of a car as “handcrafted” but this is the way these cars built and sold.

Another reason is that Ferraris maintain their value. One reason they do is that they keep to the same design, a long hood and graceful lines which echo the Ferraris that come before. When you have something of this elegance you don’t change a winning formula. And since they don’t produce a lot of them, we don’t get tired of the look.

We associate sports car with the racetrack but taking something like a Ferrari out for a spin here could do more harm than good. If you ever find yourself in possession of one – if – the general advice is to drive it on the normal road.

As well as Italian cars like the Ferrari, there are a number of French models to watch out for, the Delage, the Bugatti and the Delahaye to name just three.

Classic Sports Cars

Delage D12

The Delage for instance are no longer being made and you probably only see them nowadays in period dramas and films. Created by a designer who worked for Peugeot, strangely the first car only had one cylinder.

Also a Delage D12

From a one-cylinder car in 1906 its founder Louis Delage soon moved on to two and as early as 1909 he had created a four cylinder car mainly used for racing purposes. A year later his factory started creating six-cylinder engines for the mass market.

Specialty Dealerships

Many dealerships specialise in sports cars in order to maximise their profits, though many also sell luxury cars and classic cars too.

Side Note: A classic car has varying descriptions, but people define it as more than twenty years old. More than forty years old with value worth preserving is a more accurate benchmark in our opinion, which is a little obvious if someone is looking to restore the thing.

While there is no easy profits in the car business one key component to a specialty to dealership is matching it to the right location. Okay location, location, location shouldn’t be listed as a surprise for any business, but it’s probably not the first thing you think of when building your dealership. Expensive cars sell better near expensive neighbourhoods. Classic cars sell better near parts of town that already cater to seniors with money.

The Final Surprise/Not Surprise

Because all cars are designed to run safely and smoothly while going fast and look good, it’s hard to list these things as hallmarks of a sports car. However, most cars have some other big priority they need to elevate, like number of passengers or fuel economy. Sports cars prioritize performance, speed, and looks. These types are built for racing and therefore designed to work at speed.

The category of car most difficult to distinguish from a sports car is the luxury car. Both tend to prioritize handling and performance, are often custom built, and come with a high price tag. However, the super high cost is not mandatory in a sports car and a luxury car will prioritize a smooth ride over top speed in a pinch, where sports cars prioritize performance and speed over driver comfort almost routinely.

With a cars as with any consumer good, the real question is, “is there market demand?” Sports cars sell well at every price point, making them a trend likely to continue long into the future.

The Mistake That Was The Edsel

Have you ever heard of the Edsel? Probably not, as they only manufactured for three years during the fifties, but if you work in car manufacture it is hard to forget them.

The Edsel was to compete against the Buick and the Dodge. They were marketed as cars of the future at medium price. In hindsight this seems mad, they were the same price as a Ford Mercury but not considered to be for the same market sector, so why?

It’s possible you do need to innovate during a recession but creating a luxury product?

Ford claimed at the time that was adequate product development involving sophisticated market analysis. In reality no such research had been carried out. The manufacturer of cars was a fairly new enterprise so maybe they should have known better, but they didn’t.

What’s in a name?

Ford Motor Co named this giant mistake after Henry Ford’s own son, which added weight to their claims that they didn’t do this as a joke. Then they created several different versions of the vehicle (four sedans and three station wagons), which had strange working names– for example the Edsel Citation.

The strange names, indirectly because of the influence of comic poet Marianne Moore who worked for the company at the time. Although her names were not used, they still leant the cars a tongue in cheek aura that didn’t help people take the project seriously.

Buzz and Foreshadow.

When Ford previewed beforehand pictures of the Edsel to promote it they appeared slightly blurred, which was probably an accident or an attempt to create an air of mystery, but it felt almost as if the company knew what was going to happen. When the pictures were shipped to the sales agents they were always done under wraps as if it was something illicit. Again, this was likely a sales tactic, but it struck many as if they were postponing the inevitable.

Looks that Kill.

Although the station wagon version had a superficial similarity to other station wagons but with innovative designs such as a rotating dome speedometer and a deep ditch steering wheel, the “horse collar grille” and powertrain features to the hood struck people at the time as bazaar. (It wouldn’t really move the needle by today’s standards but cars at the time were classy and fashionable not “other worldly.”)

September 4, 1957 was known as E-Day. This is where the first inklings of what the public felt about the vehicle was discovered; that it was far too unconventional a build.

It was thought to be reborn “LaSalle” a car also known for its design problems; it didn’t seem to be like any other car. And if it’s not like a car you know, how can you drive it?

Although some of the body panels were toned down in 1959 and it was given a vertical central grille the car still had trouble with its teletouch transmission system, no one could understand it. So still the sales numbers remained extremely small and it was eventually removed from the market.

Where did they Go Wrong?

It’s probably a case of hubris. Ford had a strong record of innovation and leading the car market. To some degree they may have believed that whatever they thought was cool and edgy would be adopted by the public as the next great thing. They may have been hoping that people in the market for a new car during a tough economy were advanced thinkers who would want a car that reflected their iconoclastic success. The truth is when people get their fingers burnt they get a bit cautious for a while.

They leapt to far beyond what people were accustomed to and at the worst possible time. However, looking at pictures of this car one wonders if there was ever a good time for the Edsel.

Given the amount of money involved it seems ludicrous that Ford employed none of the usual business safety procedures, such as getting the proper amount of feedback from the public including or having average consumers test drive it before it hit the market. Although Ford may have learnt its lesson, there will be further disasters masquerading as vehicles to come…

Why The Car Industry Is So Vital

OP-ED By P. Wimsett

The building of cars is the number one industry in the US and other countries. This is why in a pandemic economy it has been protected by the government.

There’s more to it than that though. You need to able to travel to school or work. Then you have business conferences, expos and similar. Added to this, various aspects of the entertainment, travel & leisure industry/hotels, theaters and sports arenas…the list goes on and on. It’s all about people being at the right place when you need to be there. So, there is a definitely an argument to be made that transportation impacts ever other industry on some level.

But is domestic manufacture vital as an industry?

The History of American Car Making

The mass production of cars was famously begun by Henry Ford. He also created large plants or super factories as well as moving assembly line. This was the only way a Model T could be created every 24 seconds.

The superfactory infrastructure was also vital in getting the time down, having a glass factory and a steel mill as well as a number of other plants in the general vicinity. If you have to rely on deliveries the process breaks down.

There is an argument for assembling cars one at a time in a shed using parts (glass frames, radiators etc) but it would be very unlikely to make a profit. Some luxury sports cars are made this way. This business model relies on having a car ordered in advance of making it and these cars are by definition, luxury (not needed) meaning if they aren’t made the buyer can simply get a different car elsewhere.

If we’re only looking at vital cars, then we’re looking at affordable cars or vehicles built to a vital purpose like hauling goods to market. Affordable cars need to be mass produced not made to order. A modern car factory needs to work at 80% capacity just to break even. You also have the difficulty of maintaining working conditions in a small environment. So, a superfactory is better.

Well, this might be an exaggeration as it would be hard to visualize the big-name cars being “clinker-built.” It wouldn’t be safe, it wouldn’t be quick and it wouldn’t be economical. So, it could be said that the superfactory system is the only way.

As well as the factories you also need showrooms and forecourts (auto lots) as well as the annual motor-shows for the system to work. With motor-shows being cancelled (most notably the one in Detroit but there usually hundreds around the world) and car lot sales so restricted that sales in general are breaking down.

Detroit

To examine how vital the industry is, it is probably worthwhile to focus on the city of Detroit. What sort of city would it be without the Big Three-General Motors, Ford and Chrysler? And what would the US economy be without these three names? There are so many questions and because we are still living through it, so few answers as yet.

Although the Big Three are no longer the biggest names in car processing they are still big enough to the US economy to be protected.

So, this is where we are, in a non-industrialized state of limbo. For our own good this state of affairs cannot continue for that much longer. There is the health risk, true, but poverty in a country causes mental complications. How long can the US economy survive on handouts from the government, which is really barrowing against the future? No one knows, but it appears we’re going to find out.

A look at China and Cars

Op-Ed by P. Wimsett

These days you might see conspiracies everywhere you go, at least where China is concerned. However a closer look at car making in China presents an interesting conundrum. Although China has built up a reputation as the world’s factory (due to various tax exemptions and the ability to operate without too many rules and regulations) other countries have proved better in exporting cars. And China’s domestic market could be a lot better.

The question might not be why the Chinese car market is huge, but why isn’t it bigger?

Not that cars aren’t important of course, its just that other materials have been more important. It just has never been a priority for the country. Although 46.8% of China’s GDP is from manufacture, most of this is chemicals, steel, and cotton. The manufacture of cars goes way down the list. Typically, countries that make there own steel do well in the vehicle manufacturing arena.

When you consider the entrepreneurial spirit of countries such as the US and Japan it doesn’t come as that remarkable that these countries sell more cars. But China gives them a run for their money-or did until very recently.

Last July there were reports that the Chinese car industry was failing. In 2019 there were 21 million passenger vehicles created in the country whereas 2017 had 24 million cars (These figures are from the German Association of the Automotive Industry).

But as of now the country seems to have come through the Coronavirus and out the other side, its possible to view China car manufacturing as an investment.

It seemed that even without the virus, the Chinese car industry was in a bad way. It seems that car sales in China fell by 92% after that with only 811 vehicles produced per day. Even without the virus we wouldn’t exactly be singing China’s praises as far as the car market is concerned.

Names like Chang-an and Chery Automobiles haven’t fared that well in the Western world, where Japanese cars remain quite popular. In other words The “West” has no problem buying cars made in Japan or South Korea, but not China. The Chinese seem okay buying Western Cars so long as they are made in China, which was the case until Covid shut down several factories.

To look at one name in more detail, Ford’s sales in China fell 20%. Since a factory operating at 80% can only break even, Ford was forced to close factories temporarily.

We don’t really know how much of this is Covid related and how much was already in the works. The closures were treated as longer Lunar New Year holiday. There’s not that much good news at the moment.

The factories were not just manufacturing Chinese cars. In Wuhan there was a Nissan factory (which were founded in Japan) and one for Honda (also Japan) and Hyandai (South Korea). So, by China falling ill, other countries soon felt the pinch.

Maybe by looking into how the US and Japan operate, China can now take the advantage? When the lockdown is over, and people begin to take to their cars out more it will be a rush by all automakers to resume manufacture. China could focus on finding a competitive advantage for their designs.

Areas it might look into is creating lightweight designs with composite materials, possibly personalizing the design. Things must surely change for the Chinese market, there should be a way through. Granted, these times are unprecedented, so no one knows what is coming.

Testing A Car’s Aerodynamics

A number of companies are dropping wind tunnels in favor of virtual simulation. Against what people may think, the computer simulation gives a better idea of reality than wind tunnels.

Propulsion, also known as drag, has a complicated relationship with the speed of the vehicle. As the speed doubles the drag goes up to four times that much.

Using wind tunnels to test cars goes all the way back to 1960. Things that can be tested include the design, speed, fuel efficiency and how the driver handles the car, the latter is especially important in assisting racecar drivers to know how to perform in the toughest conditions.

For a car to turn corners at 200mph requires the aerodynamics to be tested and retested. Racecar designers will actually use wind to artificially increase the cars weight to improve its traction and handling. They do this by adding spoilers and fins in order to increase the downforce.

It’s important that the peak of the roof is far enough forward, which not only adds to the aerodynamics it means there is more headroom for the back seat.

BMWs are tested in the Aerodynamic Test Center, which recreated road speed and air speed, up to a massive 300 km/h. The difficulty here is that you need a prototype vehicle to start with.

The variables investigated include the drag, lift, side forces, pitch, yaw, and roll.

The lift is the opposite to the drag, an upward force countering the weight of the object.

The pitch is a rotation by side parts of the vehicle, it isn’t that noticeable unless you are talking about the wing of a plane or the sail of a yacht.

The yaw is the rotation of the vehicle’s nose whereas the roll is the rotation of the whole vehicle’s body, usually in a crash.

In reducing these variables, the car becomes easier to handle. To prevent a car skidding on the road, you need to know the yaw and the drag especially, to prevent the car flipping over you need to know the roll force, but also the load and pitch forces. Ultimately whatever happens to a car is a result of all these forces interacting with one another. If a car is unstable it will be harder to control.

Flow Field

The areas that are affected by the aerodynamics of a vehicle is known as a “flow field”. It all comes down to optimization, making the car as easy to handle as it can be. This include lengthening the car, which effects the flow field” to make the car more aerodynamic as well as fuel effective–the pressure is distributed around the vehicle. The “flow field” is a picture of the drag, lift and the side forces and is shaped in a similar way to the car itself.

After the indoor stuff the cars are tested on the racetrack. They require 200 hours in all.

Another way of carrying out test is modelling, at around 30-60% of the production size. It’s a way to carry out similar tests but to save on running costs.

It’s best to understand how your car operates in tests so you know where the potential liabilities are. A car only drives well because its aerodynamics have been well thought out.

American Cars and American Standards

There is a difference between an American standard car and what someone internationally might see as an American car (or even an all-American car). Outside the US an American Car is one of the big names such as Corvette and Cadillac, though jeeps and pickups have a certain feel about them which links them to the US.

Manufacture

Is a car “American” because it’s made in America? It’s difficult to locate all the resources that make up a whole car, so it would be truly difficult to have a car that was entirely made within one country—even a country as big as the US. So, calling a car “American” made may be a piece of misdirection, although much of the steel and other vital components do come from America.

Many people consider a car American when the final assembly is done in America, but most car makers locate a plant within the country they’re going to sell to, so some “foreign cars” are assembled or at least modified within the US. All cars used to be made from materials from the US but today things aren’t as clear.

Some American cars are made in alliance with other countries. Some Chevrolets such as the Sonic have the backing of Korea and are being sold in Mexico and South America, as well as Eastern Asia. While the Spark (also partly a Korean car) is also made in Vietnam and Columbia.

Yes, they are American vehicles, there was definitely American money involved as well as American designers, but things are more complex than that.

Corporate Ownership

Another, common way to think of a car as American is when the car maker had its start in American. Now that’s getting warmer. Of all the huge car firms in the US, Buick is the oldest, being at 110 years old.

Other people consider a car American made when the corporate headquarters are in America, but … most car makers sell internationally so they have headquarters of some stripe several places on the globe.

Was there ever an American Car?

Take the Model T Ford for example, even with this vehicle it’s hard to calculate how truly American it is. It was designed by an American but apart from that it was manufactured globally. Ford had factories all around the world, including Walkerville in Canada and a region near Old Trafford in Manchester. Anywhere labour was inexpensive Ford put an assembly line or sourced parts.

1927 Aeroford

There were other forces changing the makeup of cars when business became worldwide, such as local laws and local tastes. Is it the American thinking that makes it an American car? For example, Americans seem to be in love with large vehicles that drink gas.

In 1920 Ford create the Aeroford, as a rebranding of the Model T, in London. The Aeroford was an attempt to merge the exotic idea of an American automobile with the UK tastes. Can the Aeroford be described as an American car? It’s hard to say, but it wouldn’t be the last car from the US was altered for a local market—either for local taste or to adapt to local rules.

The Future of The American Automobile

In the future, Tesla could well outrank names like Ford, but at this moment it pays to invest in the gas guzzler rather than the “green” car. It may not stay that way forever.

Does the consumer really want American vehicles, or do they prefer a global standard? Opinion is divided but having some kind of American prestige is a good selling point. On the other hand, the cost of an American factory, compared to say somewhere in Latin America makes a big difference.

It is not about national pride. On the practical side, you should want a car that will continue to have available parts. In purchasing a car made in the US you can be sure, at least with the big names, that any spare parts can be sourced economically and with some ease. Although sooner or later cars are discontinued leading to a lack of replacement parts.

So, What Should we Mean by American Car?

“American,” as a car description, is more likely to represent an iconic design, such as the sedan, rather than where things come from. We like big engines and bold design. We like to look off-road capable, even if we never go off road. We like variety in interior, so our car doesn’t look exactly like the next guys/gals. And we like leg/head room. Our cars should reflect the American values of freedom, independence and democracy—if you can create a design that does that, you’ve got a future in car biz.

A Rearview of 2020

It would be hard to write the story of 2020 without reference to Covid 19, the unprecedented nature of which caught everyone off guard. Sales were stopped altogether in March and there were difficulties between April-June. The rest of the year could be thought of as “mixed market forces” as everyone looked towards selling online.

Market Forces:

Another problem with the year was the lack of motor shows, the New York show was first to postpone from April to August, later to be dropped altogether.

For the many automakers which relied on the Chinese supply chain both production levels and importing issues affected US supply. This was one of the many reasons that used car vehicle sales increased here – as much as 30%.

New Models:

As with any year there were always the new models, such as the iconic Cadillac OT5 with a 335-horsepower twin turbo. An additional rear camera helps remove the blind spot you sometimes encounter when parking.

Ford introduced a 2020 Mustang and 2020 Fusion, the latter having an Ecoboost engine and driving assist.

Underperforming Sales:

One of the more popular cars was a compact crossover from Hyandai, the Tucson. Sales were still down at 900,00 units. Ford Transits sold 93,000 units which proves that businesses still need vans, even if sales were down.

Although new Jeeps and Cherokees were planned for this year as well as Toyota Highlander what happened was a slight drop; 17% for the Highlander. It could have been a whole lot worse.

The Subaru Forester showed the miniscule increase in sales: 2%.

International Car Sales:

In both May and June sales for passenger cars increased in China. Japan had the strongest sales, even if their sales were down by a fifth. Light vehicle sales were down by a quarter, but they recovered better than Europe for instance. In Russia sales were down by a quarter.

In June, France was the only country that outdid Germany and the UK. September 2020 was a good month for China, USA and Europe as sales increased, though recovery had not quite improved for Europe, it was still down by a third. Brazil had a similar decrease in figures.

There were some difficulties in September when car companies weren’t able to create WLTP** compliant vehicles. Still, Italian car sales increased by 10%, and Germany by 8%, despite the numbers from other countries contracted. Numbers of registrations increased in China for the fifth month running, which shows great promise for the rest of the world after the virus.

November 2020 the VW was the top selling model, the second being the Toyota Yaris.

Conclusion:

Maybe it’s best to draw a line in the sand for 2020, those who run car factories and those who sell cars are more aware of the difficulty but the general conclusion inside the industry is that car sales will resume with a few modifications in 2021. After all, people are longing to get back to normal (not just new normal) as well as getting away. If planned correctly, 2021 will show a big difference, we will wait and see.

**The Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) laboratory test is used to measure fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from passenger cars and vans, as well as their pollutant emissions.