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Exposing a Crime
The U.S. Auto Industries Deception to America
Going back to the 1920’s, the U.S. automakers began to break away from Henry Ford’s philosophy of sticking with the same model, in the same color, at the same price. Instead, manufactures like General Motors changed models every year, to give the impression that there was something unique that the American Consumer needed to buy. But changing models constantly required large investments of capital for design and retooling. Detroit was planting the seeds of its own destruction if it didn’t keep up with trends amongst the buying public. A high demand for cheap attractive models would lead to one of the biggest muckraker stories in the mid 60’s.
In 1965 Ralph Nader published “Unsafe at Any Speed: The designed-In- Dangers of the American Automobile.” He exposed how General Motors and the American auto industry were placing consumers’ lives at risk by failing to design safe cars. Nader especially singled out General motors’ Corvair which he labeled a death trap.
By the late 1950’s, the Big Three automakers were losing out to a public that was demanding smaller, less expensive cars, and was also increasingly attracted to imports, especially the Volkswagen Beetle. Imports, in fact accounted for 10 percent of all sales in the U.S., exceeding 600,000 a year in 1958. So in 1959 it came as no surprise when the Big Three introduced three smaller models to compete against the imports: the Ford Falcon, Chevrolet corvaire, and the Plymouth Valiant. These cars, which were cheap to make, and appealing to the consumer would turn out to be unsafe and poorly constructed.
Nader being a consumer himself was outraged that the U.S. auto industry could get away with murder. So he published his book “Unsafe at Any Speed” to expose the automakers. Millions of people read his book, and after exposing the industry of automobile construction he succeeded
For its part, ...
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