*click on photos to enlarge/photos courtesy of GM archives via Buick a Century of Progress press kit
As we stand on the threshold of the Great Depression Part II the phrase of the week seems to be “to big to fail”. I have heard this a great deal as of late, especially in regards to General Motors.
I have but one question in response. When was the last time you saw a Studebaker, Hudson, Nash, Packard, or Hupmobile dealership?
The demise of General Motors is a terrible thing to contemplate. The world wide economic implications would be staggering. Likewise with the resultant blow to morale. Still, the mere contemplation of such a thing speaks volumes about the state of the American auto industry as well as the nation.
There was a time, less than a half century ago, when the very idea that the American automobile industry would not dominate the worlds markets was an unthinkable one. To imagine the very possibility that there might come a time when there was no American automobile industry was inconceivable.
Thirty five years before this it was the American automobile manufactures that spearheaded an industrial miracle to become the arsenal of democracy. Jeeps, planes, and all manner of war materials rolled along assembly lines and from factories where mere months previously gleaming Fords and Chevrolet’s were built.
Trucks sold to the Russians through the Lend Lease program transformed that nations lexicon as Studebaker became synonymous with indestructible. Jeeps utilized in every theater and most every continent set the stage for the creation of post war workhorses such as Land Rover and Land Cruiser.
In the decades before 1940 it was the American automobile industry that put the world on wheels. American Bantam was instrumental in the creation of Japan’s first automobile manufacturer, Datsun. In Australia Packard outsold Rolls Royce by a wide margin and in the early 1920s two of three vehicles in the world, including tractors, were built by Ford Motor Company.
The lessons learned from the past depression seem to have been forgotten. Leadership and the can do American spirit that transformed the world appears to be a lost art in our state houses and boardrooms.
As we contemplate the ramifications of the demise of GM, or Ford or Chrysler, perhaps it would be wise to also consider what once made these and similar American companies the envy of the world.