Harley Earl's Bold Mid-Twentieth Century Cars Reflected A Strong America

First off, we want to thank individual design/engineering leaders such as Steve Jobs of Apple and BMW's global design head from 1992-2009, Chris Bangle, for using pages from Harley Earl's original playbook to ignite their dominant sales weapon -- DESIGN -- and scoring major victories in business success at the outset of the twenty-first century.   

Simply put, Harley Earl's product designs stoked the flames of the American economy on a colossal scale and others like him today (Jobs and Bangle) dramatically expanded their company's market share positions and annual profits using merchandizing paradigms Earl originally founded in the American business world. Ever the showman, Harley Earl gave the general audience a slice-of-the-future like no modern big business man has ever done before in the history of launching new manufactured product designs. Earl was a design pioneer who often liked to remind others that when it came to selling automobiles, "appearance and function are of parallel importance" and his unique lexicon became the ultimate game changer in the post WW Two business economy. 

Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, introduced new versions of the company’s Macbook Pro and Macbook portable computers. Jobs gave his audience of about 100 reporters, analysts and bloggers in a small auditorium on Apple’s campus a tutorial on manufacturing and industrial design.

The following commencement speech quote is from 1965 when the business leader, Harley Earl, was receiving an honorary doctorate degree from Pratt Institute college in Brooklyn, NY:

"He led the way to industry-wide recognition that appearance and function are of parallel importance. When Harley Earl entered GM, he entered an alien world where financial men and engineers were reluctant to trust the decisions of an artist. However, Mr. Alfred Sloan, his sponsor at GM, helped him establish management-level acceptance of the industrial designer as a participant in determination of policy. Earl’s knowledge of engineering and production methods played no small part in General Motors’ ascent to a position of industrial leadership."

Today, design engineers like Jobs stood on the shoulders of a great American industrial leader when his company used the visual design prestige and the annual model change marketing and merchandizing paradigm to sell millions of products. Just as GM legitimized long ago, Earl was first to conceive of lavish annual introductions and naturally, Harley's business inventions had a great deal with why GM once reined so supreme. 

For well over fifty years now, in terms of numbers and finance, the design of the automobile has been the leading sector of commerce in the entire industrial design community. Since Harley Earl pioneered Detroit’s industry or business of designing cars in the first place, he had his own philosophy of industrial design. Creating "Detroit's Dependency on Design" was Earl's highest order and this business leader kept his personal philosophies on this matter close to the vest and never ever published them. Why? Because Earl knew if he'd ever relinquished this body-of-knowledge, he'd be letting out General Motors’ most valuable trade secret. After all, the revolutionary new business of "Automobile Design" cemented GM as the No. 1 car company for decades of time.

You think Apple's manufactured product designs are the first time any major company has been at the forefront of some new fangled concept at WOWING a world-wide audience on a large scale in the business world today? Think again, for Harley Earl's ultra-modern and highly sophisticated designed products were doing this long ago. Absolutely, Steve Jobs and/or Apple's product designs should be measured up against those of another success story in the history of the modern business world so a general American audience can clearly see the entire picture. Remember, today's GM has nothing to do with this enterprising story. Even 50-years ago, when the U.S. population was approximately 160 million people, Earl's overall auto design statement -- measured in numbers and finance -- towers shoulders above what business leaders such as Apple's Jobs and BMW's Bangle have created early in the 21st Century.

The above 60 MINUTES news story from October 2006 titled, GM's Difficult Road Ahead, captures previous GM Vice Chairman, Bob Lutz clearly admitting how General Motors was managed the wrong way in recent decades, "by financial leaders." Click above to see Lutz say why the American auto industry was so successfully fifty years ago, "During the parade of GM's greatness in the 50s and 60s Design ruled and the finance people ran behind to reestablish order and picked up the pieces. We've just lost the focus on Design." 

On October 16, 2008 Don Hammonds of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, wrote this insightful newspaper article, click above, and this news story provides proof positive that instead of notebook computers which are low ticket consumer items, Harley Earl introduced millions of high ticket GM automobiles made in America. To this day, it's still nationally known "that buying an automobile is the second most important purchase a consumer will make to buying a home in this country." 

Example below shows Harley Earl introducing a new product design in 1951; LeSabre, like the Apple Macbook, was originally fashioned and/or made out of aluminum, too. 

The visceral photograph, further down, shows the intense delight and drama of Americans playing out on the streets of mid-town Manhattan, NY who wanted to all get a sneak-peek at Harley Earl's Motorama Show Cars at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. The picture only illustrates part of the crowd, for the lines wrapped around the block.