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If I may be allowed to overgeneralize, allow me to suggest that American car buyers appreciate utility, but would rather a given vehicle not look too utilitarian.
Note: This article is reprinted from the October 2016 issue of Collectible Automobile
By Jack Stewart
In 1953, the U.S. economy was robust. Bestowed with fresh styling, Plymouth set a record with almost 650,000 cars built while retaining its number-three sales position behind Chevrolet and Ford—as it had since 1931. Nineteen fifty-three was also Plymouth’s 25th anniversary, but it chose not to celebrate. Perhaps with Ford and Buick celebrating golden anniversaries that year, Plymouth felt like an upstart.
Stephen Stills wasn’t thinking about the American automotive “Malaise Era” when he wrote “Love the One You’re With,” but for enthusiasts of the time, the sentiment was apt:
Plymouth became a stand-alone brand in 1929. For a year prior, said vehicles were branded Chrysler-Plymouth and sold as more affordable alternatives to the pricer Chrysler cars they were sold alongside.
I think it’s fairly typical of people to group memories into convenient categories. Most people probably look back at their lives thus far and see periods of time easily identified by markers such as childhood, high school, post-acne, and marriage—or something akin to that. But, our memories can play tricks on us.
Well into the early 2000s, Lexus vehicles still came standard with cassette players. I mention this because it’s an example of a classic paradigm clash. Almost 30 years after the first CDs were making their way into the hands of audiophiles, Lexus was still catering to conservative car shoppers who were in no hurry to replace their Robert Ludlum cassette audio books.
By now we all know the Edsel story. It’s a brutal tale having to do with market timing, a recession, and a bunch of bad luck. If you’d like to read more about the Edsel end days, click here.
Wikipedia describes a soccer mom as “a married middle-class woman who lives in the suburbs and has school-age children. She is sometimes portrayed in the media as busy or overburdened and driving a minivan or SUV. She is also portrayed as putting the interests of her family, and most importantly her children, ahead of her own.” Per Wikipedia, the term started showing up in the national media in 1982.