what's happening to cars?
Maclean’s asked these two consumer experts to fire questions at six leading manufacturers
HERE’S WHAT THE CAR MAKERS SAY—
A MACLEAN’S PANEL
Canada’s National Magazine
'Why are they so big? Why are they so powerful? Why are they so expensive? Why are they so quickly obsolete? Why are they so ugly?
...And why are they so impossible to get in and out of without knocking off your hat?”
The woman asking these pointed questions is Mrs. J. L. Savage, a national vice-president of the Canadian Association of Consumers. She is talking, of course, about cars.
Ranged across the table from her are the high executives of six of the leading automobile manufacturers in this country and Mrs. Savage has them where she wants them. Like most Canadians, who now drive a total of three million passenger cars, she has been doing a lot of thinking about the automobile lately, and she has some leading questions about it. She is here, at Maclean's invitation. to speak her mind, along with another consumer expert from the United States. Sidney Margolius, a director of the National Association of Consumers.
The results of the ensuing three-hour discussion, chaired by Nathan Cohen of the CBC's Fighting Words panel, are presented here in condensed form as they came from the tape recorder. Mrs. Savage's and Mr. Margolius’ questions ranged all the way from the value of tail fins on a modern automobile to the whole complicated question of horsepower. The automakers’ answers were generally frank and sometimes surprising. Here, in capsule form, are some of the points that emerged from the discussion:
• To most Canadians, cost is not a major factor when it comes to buying a car. The public wants wild designs and "extras” and generally prefers
BRUCE JOHNSON’S SWIVEL CAR
“The perfect town ear,” he says. “No more trouble parking—wheels operate independently like casters on a swivel chair. You can move in any direction in the space of the car itself. No more head-on collisions or bent bumpers cither. Lots of room on the outer rim for luggage too. One slight technical flaw: Did you ever try steering a free-moving swivel chair without your feet on the ground?”
► Are today’s cars too big?
► Why can’t car prices come down?
► Are they making better cars?
► Do tins attract the buyer or help the car?
► Are modern cars too powertul?
D. C. GASKIN, STUDEBAKER
“We’ve reached the time when cars have become too large . . . but the public still wants them bigger, heavier, more powerful.”
E. F. ARMSTRONG, GENERAL MOTORS
“We think when we build extra horsepower into cars we make them safer . . . A big engine with less friction saves fuel.”
C. O. HURLY, CHRYSLER
“Fins help the over-all styling, and our tests have shown that a car with fin design has greater road stability in a cross wind.”
GEORGE JACKSON, FORD
“Prices haven’t gone up as much as beefsteak . . . yet cars have never had so much optional equipment . . . and they’re better.”
ROBERT J. ORR, AMERICAN MOTORS
“The public hears about only one tenth of improvements. Better braking and engineering—they’re too complicated to explain.”
VERNER JANSEN, VOLKSWAGEN
“We do not believe in creating artificial obsolescence. We try to maintain a basic design, save money for future improvements.”
WHAT'S HAPPENING TO CARS? continued.
a bigger, heavier and more powerful car.
• Women and teen-agers are influencing the buying of automobiles to a greater degree than before.
• By the end of the century there will be more than one million cars a year sold in Canada, but even the engineers don’t know what those cars will look like.
• There is no agreement among the manufacturers as to whether safety belts are really safe, or not.
• Soft-top convertibles and four-door sedans seem to be on the way out.
What about the size of cars?
Mrs. Savage: Why is it so difficult to get small cars of Canadian make?
Mr. Hurly (Chrysler): Well, if you remember in 1953 and ’54 at Chrysler we had a concept of design that suggested outside dimensions should be restricted. We thought that since the car is a vehicle of transportation the buying public would accept that merchandise in preference to some of the fancier types. Our experience showed us that the public did not take nearly as well to
that conservatism in design as they have taken to our cars that started with the "forward look” in '55. We have been eminently more successful with this design than with the more conservative type.
Mr. Cohen: What about your point of view' as to the bigger car, Mr. Armstrong?
Mr. Armstrong (General Motors): J think the
public thinks cars are very much larger than they are. For example, the 1951 Chevrolet was 195-y» inches over-all. The 1957 model is 200 inches. Only 4% inches more. These figures I’m quoting
are over-all length — bumper to bumper.
Mr. Margolius: You mean the Chevrolet is a relatively compact car?
Mr. Armstrong: Yes, but the point I’m trying to make is that it looks a lot longer than it really is. The reason it looks longer is because the sheet metal has been stretched out over the rear and the front fenders . . .
Mr. Margolius: One manufacturer, Ford, for the first time is selling a car in tw'o different sizes. It would be interesting to know which size is selling better, the larger or smaller.
continued on next page
George Feyer’s magic midget
“The car of the future must be small,” he says. “Just add water to this one and, presto! it’s a limousine.”
five more artists let their fancy run wild on what the car of the future should be
What’s happening to cars? continued
Mr. Jackson (Ford): The definite trend and tendency is that people are more anxious to become associated with the 1 18-inch job as compared with the I 16-inch job. But the type of automobile you refer to, Mrs. Savage, the small car, is available to the public if they choose to buy it . . .
Mrs. Savage: 1 think, women particularly use cars a lot to shop—the second car—and to take children to school and the dentist. We need to park easily and it’s difficult with a big car. After all. men are buying more cars than women and, you know, men have to show' they’ve got a new car. and if it’s not bigger and brighter and more colorful than last year’s car then they haven’t done well that year.
Mr. Gaskin (Studebaker-Packard): I’m sort of
in-between. 1 agree with what has been said to some extent. But I think probably we’ve reached the time when cars have become a little too large. Drive between here and Montreal and count the cars and the number of people in each one. In most cases you’ll find two or less. A friend of mine the other day said he’d like to have a big car. 1 asked him when he last had six people in his car and he couldn't remember. 1 think we've got to the point where cars are a little larger than they should be. But as Mr. Hurly has pointed out, the public seems to want bigger and better and heavier and more powerful automobiles all the time; the industry has to provide them.
Mr. Jansen (Volkswagen): European cars have
not been made smaller just to be different from American makes; it was economic, hard facts— high taxes, high insurance rates, higher costs for gasoline. For that reason we designed smaller cars. When we brought them to Canada we were not at all sure they would appeal. Surprisingly, we have been able to sell quite a few.
Mr. Margolius: Not long ago the president of one auto factory said it was silly to build a threethousand-pound car to carry a 120-pound woman down to the drugstore to buy a powder puff . . . Mr. Gaskin: I think the public is beginning to realize that every time continued on page 78
Franklin Arbuckle’s safety wagon
“Just look at these solid features: all-chrome finish (ending desire for more chrome); sprinkler system for cleaning one-way shatter-proof glass; pre-crumpled fenders (you don’t have to worry when wife is driving); refrigeration for ice cubes and air-conditioning; gun turret for sniping at horn blowers; anti-burglar device (if driver is tied up by thugs he presses button with foot, roof descends trapping thugs, door opens permitting passengers to escape, trained poodle unties driver).”
Duncan Macpherson’s flying amphibian
“The economy car of the future,” he says. “Static electricity given off by driver will motivate a machine without moving parts. Axle-less hollow balls for wheels will enable you to move in any direction; earplugs are optional in periscope hat for driver. The whole machine is made of different compounds of papier-mâché. It’s cheap and simple to manufacture and easy to dispose of.”
Robert Bruce’s flying convertible
“A perfect car to beat traffic jams: the back seat is actually a helicopter. The propeller is a fabric that can be carried rolled up in the trunk and then inflated when needed (rubber companies are actually experimenting with this). Think how easy this would make it to get away from the highways for fishing and playing in our forests and lakes!”
Peter Whalley’s car for timid people
“It leaves nothing to chance. Automatic whiteline driver keeps you on the right side of the road while loudspeaker keeps you constantly aware of car and road conditions. Retractable rear wheels have Tru-Grip mudguard teeth for emergency stops. To enter: just pull the zipper in poJythenc film dome of car. Rear escape hatch has zipper.”
continued from page 16
Women influence most car buying . . . and they’re not sold on low-cost cars
you put an inch in width or an inch in length into an automobile you increase weight — and gasoline consumption. I won't say it’s going to happen this year, but I think somebody is going to come out with an economical automobile. On the other hand in many cases the socalled second car has become the station wagon. People in rural areas are pooling rides—taking children to school —and if the demand were altogether for a so-called low-priced economical car the sale of station wagons would not be increasing at the rate it is; so the demand of the lady shopper isn't altogether for a low-operating-cost car.
Who chooses the car? Man or wife?
Mr. Hurly: I’d like to come back to Mrs. Savage's comments about the automobile being bought by men. There was a time when the man of the house selected the car of his choosing. Today car purchases are influenced very substantially by women and teen-agers.
Mr. Jackson: I don't think the man has the influence, for instance, in colors and upholstery. Many of the companies employ women stylists and designers to appeal to the woman's tastes, not necessarily her husband’s. If any of these husbands are brave enough to say their wives don't influence their purchases, well then, I think they are pretty good.
Are car prices out of line?
Mr. Cohen: How much has the cost of making cars increased?
Mr. Hurly: Not as much as you might think. . . .
Mr. Jackson (Ford): They haven't gone up as much as beefsteak.
Mr. Gaskin: The rising cost isn't predicated on manufacturers' wishes, but largely on the cost of materials and wages. I doubt very much there's been a year since 1947 when we haven’t had a wage increase in our plants.
Mr. Margolius: What has happened to the benefits of automation?
Mr. Gaskin: If it wasn't for automation you'd have had much higher increases.
And you’re overlooking the question of taxes. When you buy a twenty-five-hundred-dollar automobile you’re paying three-fifty to four hundred dollars in taxes—probably the largest cost we’ve got in the retail price of an automobile today.
Mr. Jansen (Volkswagen): Gentlemen, haven’t you forgotten one important item? You’ve improved your models mechanically very much. The value of the vehicle has increased.
Mr. Margolius: At the same time aren’t cars using thinner sheet metal on the bodies?
Mr. Gaskin: No. The public have that impression. There may be lighter-weight materials used in certain parts of the car but 1 don’t think anybody is taking a chance on sacrificing safety for the sake of using slightly lower-cost sheet metal. We do know there’s more aluminum coming into use—but not in any point where you are going to affect safety.
Mr. Jansen (Volkswagen): May I point out the difference in our approach? We have not added any obvious external improvements to our vehicle in the past eight years. We have made a lot of improvements, of course—four hundred and sixty, I believe—internally. But we have not changed our engine, we have not
changed our transmission. We still have a very outdated gear lever, if you want to put it that way, on the floor of the car; we don’t think it pays on a small car to make a change just for the sake of change. That is the difference in the European approach . . .
Mr. Margolius: Well, since you have this small car and you don’t change the model every year and you have all these inexpensive components, why isn’t your car cheaper?
Mr. Jansen: Our production figures to start with are smaller than the American figures, so our costs of tooling must be amortized on a smaller quantity of vehicles. Then, bringing the vehicles from Europe does not only mean taxes, it also means, in our case, customs duty plus transportation costs.
Mr. Jackson (Ford): You may feci cars are priced high, but I don't believe there has been a time when cars have been sold with so much optional extra equipment such as automatic transmissions, power steering and the like . . .
Mr. Gaskin: Henry Ford once said the public could have any color it wanted as long as it was black . . . well, Mr. Ford changed his mind because of public pressure. The public didn't want all black; they wanted blue and green and black
on white, yellow on brown and pink and purple and everything else and they’ve got it. Now 1 think they’re beginning to realize that three-tone and two-tone and what-not combinations cost money and I think by 1958 we're going to see more subdued color combinations — not as many three-tones or even as many twotones.
Mr. Orr (American Motors): We thought that would happen this year, but it isn’t happening. We thought that last year, but it didn't happen.
Mr. Cohen: If for a moment we put
aside the question of taxation and labor cost, would it help the price situation if new models were brought out less often than they are — every second year, say, or every third year?
Mr. Gaskin: Your major change is on a twoor three-year cycle; your intermediate change isn’t as extensive.
Mr. Cohen: But there is still a rise in cost?
Mr. Gaskin: Correct. But if you could assure us that the market would hold and we could have constant and full employment and sell as many automobiles as we could produce we wouldn’t be too anxious to change.
Mr. Margolius: Well, there’s a hungry
market for cars in Canada. If cars were brought down in price by limiting the number of models and changes, wouldn’t you still sell a lot of cars—perhaps more cars?
Mr. Jackson: Everyone wants a better
car and every year we try to make them better. Ed hate to think what would happen to us if we decided not to.
Are cars getting better every year?
Mr. Margolius: But do you really try to make them better every year, or do
you really just make exterior changes and try to make them better every two or three years?
Mr. Orr (American Motors): For every outside change there arc ten the public can't even be told about.
Mr. Cohen: Such as what?
Mr. Orr: Improved braking, improved
front-end suspension, improved engineer-
ing and things like that impossible to advertise—too complicated or not interesting enough to publish.
Mr. Hurly (Chrysler): I think it could
be safely stated that there's never been a year when new models have been introduced that there haven't been many substantial changes for the better.
Mr. Orr: Getting back to the question of the country being hungry for motor vehicles. Well, let me assure you the motor industry in Canada is only going at about sixty or seventy percent of capacity.
Mr. Margolius: You're not producing to full capacity?
Mr. Jackson (Ford): If you wanted to stretch us we could go much faster . . . Mr. Margolius: Couldn’t you stretch it yourself by reducing the price?
Mr. Jackson: We don’t think so. The cost of producing automobiles is more in respect of the weight . . . We could produce a small automobile, but for the number of pounds you’d save—two hundred-odd pounds of steel—it wouldn’t compensate the manufacturer sufficiently to get the price into the area you have in mind.
Mr. Margolius: Well, wouldn't it be farsighted merchandising to cut the price and thereby step up production and cut your production costs?
Mr. Jackson: You wouldn't have the assurance the market would absorb the additional vehicles, that you’d have to have to make a substantial cut.
Mr. Gaskin (Studebakcr): I think that
probably before we get to the end of the century we’ll be selling a million cars but that doesn’t necessarily mean a large reduction in costs because labor prices show no tendency toward going down, nor do material costs.
Mr. Margolius: You don’t expect automation is going to . . .
Mr. Gaskin: No. It will reduce some of the cost, but not all of it.
What determines the trade-in value?
Mrs. Savage: I would like to ask a question about trade-ins. There’s a tremendous variation when you trade in your old car. I've been offered twice as much by one company as by another. Who absorbs that tremendous difference? Is it because one firm is trying to get the business or one firm is trying to do you out of the real worth of your old car, or what is it?
Mr. Jackson (Ford): Well, when you’re trading in your automobile you’re doing business with a retail store. That retail businessman is carrying an inventory of new and used cars. Among the many factors that could influence him is his current position regarding the stock of your particular model. If you go to him with a car he needs badly—to balance out his used-car inventory — he might conceivably give you a few dollars more than if he had several in stock and found they weren’t moving well. It’s plain economics—in the same v/ay that a grocer doesn't want to take in more goods than can be sold . . .
Mr. Orr (American Motors): Also, he
owns his own business. He has to use his own judgment. Many retailers go bankrupt because their judgment is no good.
Mr. Gaskin: From the consumer point of view you should also consider that what looks like the best deal might not turn out to be the best deal.
Why do Canadian cars cost more?
Mrs. Savage: I'd like to know how much difference there is between the American and Canadian prices for the same model. Mr. Gaskin: Not as much as you'd
think . . . You couldn’t go to the U. S. and buy the same automobile and bring it into Canada for anywhere near the price you can buy a Canadian-built car. There is a higher price here, yes, but then you have lower volumes in the factories with wage rates almost the same. In the average case, using most of the low-priced automobiles, you can buy a Canadian-produced car for from $250 to $300 less than you could buy it in the U. S. and bring it into Canada and pay duty and taxes.
Mr. Cohen: Why is the tax so much higher in this country?
Mr. Gaskin: Well the first tax is the standard ten-percent sales tax on almost everything . . . But in the summer of 1940 the government felt it could put a luxury tax on automobiles as revenue for war purposes. That varied in stages . . . since the war it's been reduced to ten percent but we feel tlwt ten percent should be taken off. We don't feel the automobile is a luxury item anymore.
Mr. Hurly (Chrysler): A few years ago when w'e had a survey made, 1 think less than fifteen percent of the total mileage driven in Canada was for pleasure purposes . . .
Mr. Gaskin: There's one point we overlooked w'hen referring to comparisons’ with prices. There are certain components that have to be imported from the U. S. because the engineering costs, and maybe volume, would not justify them being produced in Canada.
Mr. Margolius: Why can't more of
those parts be built in Canada?
Mr. Gaskin: Well, take automatic transmissions. They haven’t yet reached their final stage. 1 don't think anybody is satisfied with the automatic transmissions we've got in our cars today. Nobody could afford to tool up in Canada to build one at the moment.
Mr. Margolius: Ward's Automotive Reports calculated there are three hundred individually priced models on the market this year. Would it be possible to make more parts in Canada if manufacturers made fewer models?
Mr. Gaskin: The difference in models isn't as great as w'ould appear on the surface: you may use a hardtop on one model that you also use on another model: you wouldn't save much by discontinuing one or the other because there's a lot of interchangeability and standardization in parts. Take a custom, deluxe and a super model—it may be a difference in upholstery . . .
Mr. Margolius: Then the consumer is
better off buying the lowest-priced model because he gets the same basic car?
Mr. Gaskin: Chassis-wise, that would be true, but then you get into another model that might have automatic transmission. or power steering as standard equipment: that's why you pay a higher price. Mr. Cohen: We haven't heard anything about the European approach to this question of prices.
Mr. Jansen (Volkswagen): Well, our situation in Europe, and especially in Western Germany, is different from yours here, gentlemen. We made up our minds eight years ago that we would maintain our basic design for as long a period as we could, saving a lot of money and plowing it back into our company. That money has been used to increase our production from 8,000 in 1948 to 500.000 this year. All this has undoubtedly contributed to making the cars cheaper and. we believe, of better quality. We do not believe in creating artificial obsolescence. as it has been put. here in America. Eor that reason we do not publicly make known our improvements: we silently introduce them and give the impression that we continue over the years unchanged.
Is the trade-in price slump too heavy?
Mr. Cohen: To use your phrase. Mr. Jansen, “artificial obsolescence." Why is it that cars become so rapidly obsolete over here. Mr. Hurly?
Mr. Hurly (Chrysler): That's a rather strong statement. I don't think they become exactly obsolete as such. In the same way as people have a desire to stay up to date as far as clothes, appliances
and homes are concerned, they desire to extend that into the area of the automobile. When a new design or a new' model is introduced the public will, in some cases, clamor for it. The new design does stimulate sales. I don't think it's true that cars are quickly obsoleted. as witness the steady market for used vehicles. Mr. Margolius: What do you estimate the average depreciation on the average car? I've heard the figure cited that the average car loses twenty-nine percent of its value each year . . .
Mr. Orr (American Motors): Thirty per-
cent was the figure I had in mind.
Mr. Armstrong (General Motors): That’s from the suggested retail price, but very few people buy a car at the moment from the suggested retail.
Mr. Margolius: They're all able to buy at discount?
Mr. Gaskin (Studehaker): I'd say so.
But a car five years old is still worth a lot of money so you're not depreciating it thirty percent a year . . .
Mr. Margolius: No. but aren't you still losing thirty percent of its value each year? Say your car is five years old and
worth a thousand dollars. At the end of the year it will be worth seven hundred dollars . . .
Mr. Orr: The depreciation is less the second year and certainly less the third year . . .
Mr. Margolius: Would you say the firstyear depreciation is about forty percent? Mr. Jackson (Ford): That statement has been made. yes.
Mr. Margolius: In different parts of the country you can get better trade-in values?
will give you better trade-in values than your metropolitan areas.
Mr. Margolius: That means if you want to sell your car it’s best to sell it in rural areas, when you want to buy a secondhand car it’s best to come to the city?
Mr. Jackson: But when you sell outside your own community you have to anticipate your cost of going someplace and coming back.
Mr. Jansen: Mostly you trade your car in with a dealer you expect to give service later. You wouldn’t split it in two different fields.
Do car models change too fast?
Mr. Cohen: Why, in Europe, is a car purchased for a considerable length of time, whereas here the tendency is to buy cars much more frequently?
Mr. Jackson: I heard it expressed this way one time: in England and on the continent people have a tendency to buy what they need; in North America people have a tendency to buy what they want.
Who sets the styles in cars?
Mr. Cohen: Mrs. Savage made a point about cars being ugly . . . Why do you say they’re ugly, Mrs. Savage?
Mrs. Savage: Well, I think it’s interesting that in architecture and certainly in furniture we’re going back to simple clean-cut lines—no more ornamentation; but in cars we’re getting more and more curly things, things sticking out . . .
You’ve said: give the public what it wants. Is this some hidden urge for barbarity or is it that manufacturers have made up their minds that this is what the public wants?
Mr. Gaskin (Studebaker): Customers’
trend is what is influencing your manufacturer insofar as design and style are concerned, and the car that you are going to see ten years from now will be so completely different . . . twenty-five years from now the type of car you are going to drive, Mrs. Savage, 1 wouldn’t try to predict. You can buy a stripped car today and by that I mean just plain transportation . . . but that isn’t the
automobile that is being merchandised today.
Mr. Margolius: Well, do people actu-
ally want the extra chrome for decoration?
Mr. Armstrong (General Motors): 1 think it’s true with all manufacturers that the percentage of the stripped model is going down. We offer in our cars what we term for merchandising purposes the “sport-tone” treatment . . . this is a
special paint treatment with moldings. That’s a cost item, but by far the greater preponderance of orders that come in from dealers and the public call for this extra-special treatment to the car.
Mr. Margolius: The public itself wants all these-extras?
Mr. Armstrong: Yes, sir.
Mr. Gaskin: If the public didn't want all this decorative trim and two-toned interiors we wouldn't make them.
Mr. Jackson (Ford): If we take some-
thing off w'e get a very definite objection.
Mr. Margolius: Well, do the manufacturers help the public want these things by display and by promoting them?
Mr. Jackson: I’m sure we do.
Mr. Gaskin: Merely displaying will create the desire, w'e hope.
Mr. Cohen: I’m interested in this question of fins . . . why fins?
Mr. Hurly (Chrysler): I’ll answer that
question because we are more involved with fins than anybody in the automo-
bile industry . . . Fins are an integral part of the design and in the estimation of styling people and our design people they make a considerable contribution to the car’s over-all styling and design and appearance, but more than that . . . this is factual ... in some wind-tunnel tests made for us by one of the universities in the United States, it was established that at fifty miles per hour or more ... a car having a fin design on the rear fenders or the tail, if you wish, has greater stability in a cross-wind than a car that does not have that fin design. So, there is a small utilitarian value there as well. But it is just simply a matter of design, and an opinion, let us say, of the stylists, that it is an appealing design. The public at large, I am pleased to say, do support us in our thinking.
Mr. Jansen (Volkswagen): European
sports cars, and racing cars especially, have large stabilizers along their rear fenders.
Are modern cars too powerful?
Mr. Margolius: Well, if our stock cars are not being built for racing, why have w'e had this tremendous increase in horsepower over the past year or two? Mr. Armstrong (General Motors): Well, we think when we build extra horsepower into the automobiles, we make them safer. The engine of an automobile, say, a 200-horsepower engine cruising at, say, 60 miles an hour, is probably using about 35 horsepower. Now, the way to get fuel economy is to get a big engine, a powerful engine, and slow it down so you don’t lose in friction, and your parasitic losses are low.
Mr. Margolius: What do you mean by parasitic losses?
Mr. Armstrong: Losses that happen in
the exhaust system, your fan, your water pump and so on.
Mr. Jackson: In the last ten years the average automobile horsepower has in-
creased seventy percent w'hile the accident fatality rates have declined ten percent. Many demands are made on a motor today other than for just driving a motor vehicle, because all of your electrical facilities in your car require horsepower . . . air conditioning, radio, heater and electric window-lifts, electric seat adjustment and so on. The industry has tried to point out to the public time and again that horsepower does not necessarily boost top speeds dangerously. A thirty-percent increase in horsepower may result in only five-percent higher top speed and at the same time a thirty-fivepercent gain in the middle speed range can be achieved with this higher horsepower. There is this matter of agility that you need in your car today with the somewhat crowded conditions of the highways. The National Safety Council in the United States has said in a published report that eighty-seven percent of all serious accidents occur at speeds of forty miles an hour or less.
Mr. Margolius: The same National Safety Council has said several times that most traffic accidents, or most fatal traffic accidents are due to high speeds.
Mr. Jackson: There is a difference between accidents and fatal accidents.
Mr. Orr: Well, speed causes fatal accidents, and Mr. Margolius is quite correct there.
Should all cars have safety belts?
Mrs. Savage: I would like to talk about safety belts. Why aren't they standard equipment? I read in the paper the other day about them saving a man’s life.
Mr. Gaskin (Studebaker): There you are, you are talking about controlling prices and you want to put something in there that costs money. Anybody who wants safety belts can buy them.
Mr. Cohen: Why aren’t safety belts a regular part of cars, gentlemen. Why do they have to be an accessory?
Mr. Gaskin: There are some people who
don't like the chrome trim on the side of cars; it costs money to put on . . . the safety belt would cost money to put on and we can’t incorporate it into an automobile and sell the automobile at the same price.
Mrs. Savage: But shouldn’t it be incorporated if it is a real safety measure?
Mr. Gaskin: I’ve got them in my car. And the cars the Ontario Provincial Police buy now specify safety belts. But safety belts are no good if the passengers don’t fasten them.
Mr. Armstrong (General Motors): I want
to ask Mr. Gaskin a question. Do you ever use them?
Mr. Gaskin: I use them if I am going out on the highway ... I don’t use them in the city.
Mr. Jackson (Ford): Mr. Chairman, it happens 1 have some information here on safety. John Moore, the director of Cornell Crash Injury Research, has told a congressional sub-committee he believed that seat belts and other safety features could prevent 500,000 highway injuries a year in the United States. Severe crushing injuries to the chest of the driver
have been reduced by one half by the introduction of safety steering wheels. In non-roll-over accidents new safety door locks have reduced door openings by sixty percent. Safety belts were also sixty-percent effective in reducing injuries. Now, if these safety devices should be installed in every vehicle on the road they would cut fatalities by fifty percent and reduce the number of injuries fifty percent or more.
Mr. Orr: I think the attitude of the public on safety or accidents is that it “can’t happen to me." . . . Our particular com-
pany, along with many others, went, some years ago. to an all-welded body deliberately designed for safety in accidents. I don’t think too many people have bought our cars because of that feature. There are new designs in the body construction or chassis construction of every major manufacturer which are safer, but they are not very good selling features.
Mr. Armstrong: Mr. Chairman. I don’t think anybody has proven that safety belts are going to help the driver or the passenger in the car. Is he safer with the safety belt or is he safer without it? If you are strapped in by a belt what damage is that going to do to your anatomy? Are you going to suffer from the restrictions of the belt? If you do have a belt strapped around the abdomen, in sudden deceleration your body goes forward and your head strikes the instrument panel or the windshield. Now, in order to get the most of your protection you should have a shoulder harness around your body as well as around your abdomen and then if you are hit it is likely to snap your neck and that has been proven by these tests with dummies.
Mr. Jackson: That’s the reason why we have padded instrument panels.
Mr. Armstrong: Well, we don’t know and 1 don't think anyone else knows whether or not safety belts are going to prevent fatal accidents.
Mr. Jackson: Well. now. wait a minute. I must take exception to that. I think we do know, from the point of view of crash research I’ve just quoted.
What will tomorrow’s car look like?
Mr. Cohen: Let’s talk now about the car of tomorrow. What is the shape of the car of the future going to be like?
Mr. Orr (American Motors): Well, we feel that it will be a more compact car, that it will have room for six passengers, but it will not have extraneous length or extraneous width that does not offer anything in comfort. We believe that that is the trend. We also believe that there U another market for a four-passenger car as a second car.
Mr. Jackson (Ford): Your ’57 cars have come out, as a general rule, lower and longer. I don't think you are going to see a major change away from that trend in the immediate future.
Mr. Margolius: I agree that the lower cars have a greater roadability; still there’s a problem of getting in and out of the car . . . some people say you have to get in on a forty-five-degree angle . . . one man told us that when his car was in the garage he had to climb over the trunk to get past it.
Mr. Jackson: His garage is outdated. Mrs. Savage: Yes. but how often can we change our garages, especially if they are part of our house?
Mr. Jackson: Well, that's going to develop the industry of house construction. Mrs. Savage: In other words, we’ll have to change our house when we buy our new cars . . .
Mr. Jackson: Either that, or leave it sticking out the end of the garage which indicates to your neighbor that your car is bigger than his.
Mr. Orr: Well, I was in New York last week and if there are any cars in the garage. I’d be surprised. They're all on the streets parked bumper to bumper.
Mr. Margolius: What can the industry do to help solve this problem of streets over-traveled with car traffic?
Mr. Jackson: The industry has endeavored to draw to the attention of the authorities to keep up to date with the demands of the country.
Mr. Margolius: What specific suggestions can you make?
Mr. Jackson: Increase the highways and increase the facilities of highways.
Mr. Cohen: But, the problem doesn’t seem to confine itself to highways, does it Mr. Jackson? . . . It is perhaps more of a problem in the downtown and in the urban areas rather than it is on the highways.
Mr. Gaskin (Studebaker): Aren’t you answering that by the fact that a lot of the new shopping centres are taking care of the downtown parking problem? The automobile is making it easier for people to shop.
Mr. Jackson: Twenty years ago parking areas were not necessary; today they are part of community life. You either put them under the Parks System or you build them up into ramp garages or you allocate storage areas for your motor vehicles in your downtown areas. 1 don't know that you can do anything else.
Mr. Cohen: This car of the future that we got started off on and got derailed. Mr. Armstrong, the car of 1965. what’s it going to look like?
Mr. Armstrong: Well, in 1940 I tried to predict what the car of 1957 w'as going to look like and I don t think I came up with anything like we have today. Now I wouldn’t care to speculate. I could go ahead two or three years, and in that timt I think you’d just see the present trend continuing. I don’t see how cars can get very much lower than they are today without compromising some of the dimensions we have . . . compromising on road clearance, compromising on seat height or compromising on head room, and head room is little enough right now. In the cold weather when you reach maturity and you’re about average height you like to drive a car and wear a hat. Some can’t do ¡t, so I say we’ve reached about the minimum . . .
Mr. Hurly (Chrysler): We see a definite trend for the car of the future being of the hardtop design as we know' it today ... we see the suburban ... we see the two-door sedan as such. The four-door sedan is diminishing in popularity. It will probably be supplanted by the four-door hardtop in the car of the future.
Mr. Gaskin: Changes in the cars are going to be gradual as they have been in the past. If you attempted to come out with an entirely new design of automobile today your tooling cost would make the cost of the production of the car prohibitive.
Mrs. Savage: What about built-in jacks . . . They would be nice for women drivers? Is it the cost again?
Mr. Gaskin: It is very expensive, and I don’t know whether there would be very many people who would be willing to pay for it, because you don’t change tires today anywhere near as often as you used to.
Why do some ears him out “lemons”?
Mr. Margolius: Why do so many bitter arguments develop over so-called lemons? Do the manufacturers pre-test each car before shipping as in the days before World War II? . . . Do they adjust the car under the terms of the warranty?
Mr. Gaskin: We don’t like to use the word lemon . . . because that is a very badly used word and undignified. There are casés where a car may leave the factory that is not one hundred percent in the condition it should be. but the dealer is allowed a certain amount of money to inspect and service this car. The majority do these things . . . there’s an odd case where it doesn’t happen . . . Most of the companies in the industry today pay all of the warranty cost; in other words, if the dealer has to replace some defective part, we not only allow the dealer the
part free, but we pay him for putting it in. so that there is no reason today why a dealer should not give to the user good service before the car is delivered and good service after.
Mr. Margolius: Well, why do car manufacturers give only a ninety-day warranty on a $2,500 car when you can get a oneyear warranty on a fifty-dollar vacuum cleaner?
Mr. Jackson: There are more things can go wrong with an automobile than with a vacuum cleaner. Your warranty is ninety days or 4.000 miles . . . and your aver-
age 4.000 miles will cover the use of a car for a period that should show any deficiency in the average automobile. Mrs. Savage: I would like to take that up, because I think it is very sad . . . when you are buying a car, before you have written that cheque, the red carpet is out and everything is wonderful, but the minute that cheque is written you are wrong in everything you do and say. 1 wish we could have some sort of servicing of cars like we have servicing of oil furnaces . . . I’d gladly pay so much a year to be able to take my car in to a service station
every month and say. “Now go over it.” Mr. Orr: Well, that does exist . . . but a dealer now under warranty gets exactly the same amount of money for labor as if you were paying it. Therefore, he is just as anxious to do the work, which we pay for. as you pay for. I think that will take some of the criticisms away. The 20,000-mile or 30.000-mile or 50.000mile contracts for servicing are available through many dealers and all manufacturers.
And on this optimistic note the discussion came to a close. ★