EPIC FALL FROM GRACE

What does the "small car trend" over the last half-century have to do with the decay of America's auto business in the same time period? Everything! The following write up by Harley Earl titled, "Growing Stops for Automobiles" focuses on product design and was published over sixty years ago inside GM Folks magazine. Combined with the rest of the unbiased information, detailed below, a new picture starts developing on what was really going on behind the scenes concerning why General Motors' leaders went on to lose the most market share ever recorded in the history of keeping automotive industry data. 

An insightful 2007 AP news article by Tom Krisher, shown in its entirety further down, details the monumental collapse of what was America's largest cash cow 50 years ago: The Auto Industry. Krisher nails the historic loss using many points, here's one: "Gradual deceleration of the Big Three - The combined U.S. market share of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler declined from 73.8 percent in 1980 to 37.6 percent through the first five months of 2007." Here's an additional quote on the mayhem, "Ford and GM have lost a huge portion of their car market share in the past 27 years. In 1980, GM dominated with 46 percent of the U.S. car market, but that has dwindled to 19.2 percent so far this year, according to Autodata Inc. Ford went from 17.3 percent in 1980 to 11.1 percent this year. During the same time, Toyota more than tripled its market share and Honda's share more than doubled, largely by selling Camrys and Accords that have reputations of reliability and quality." This article is followed by a WSJ report by Joe White delving into how Toyota is looking to "bury GM."

Earl was a great champion of diversifying his company away from building large cars. He and the other primary leaders of GM intended on using the gained wisdom from their 25 year winning streak, 1930 to 1955, when the market share of GM leapt from 25 to a 50 percent level, to harmonically steer the company upward into the 1960s. Building millions of small cars to meet the demand of the consumer and the market place was part of the strategy, but putting it mildly, the original "older and wiser" team had a collision with opposites.

If you examine the generation of product designs (cars from GM) following in Harley Earl's wake, this man's telling quote, "poor styling and improperly timed styling has proved financially disastrous..." cuts through all the fog of claims and counter claims "excuses" made up by GM's top execs responsible for the massive collapse that went on for decades of time. It succinctly explains why GM, and Detroit's other major automakers, became powerless to turn around their plunging market share position heading into the new century. 

The two 2008 WSJ articles, below, pinpoint the decades-long slide of the U.S. auto scene and GM. The world's largest company of the 20th century has free fallen well below the market share level (under 25%) that GM hasn't experienced since prior to 1925! GM's market share in 2012 is floating between 17 to 18 percent.

The following stats and charts, below, expertly demonstrate downward trend leading up to and going into the 21st century. 

Tom Krisher's June 9, 2007 AP article does a good job fleshing out a tragic story on the greatest power dive in the history of modern business, "Gradual deceleration of the Big Three - The combined U.S. market share of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler declined from 73.8 percent in 1980 to 37.6 percent through the first five months of 2007."