"GROWING" STOPS FOR AUTOMOBILES
Look at these authentic dated photos that were originally taken for business, not amusement, reasons. As anyone can see this was fifteen years before a titanic small car trend began unfolding in North America's market place; the largest car market in the world. After which, starting in the 1970s, foreign auto-company rivals started becoming the biggest winners of a bourgeoning new sector of auto making: Small Cars.
Why supply all this fresh new historical material and share it publicly? Because for one, we believe America's auto industry is at a tipping point and if something radical isn't done soon the landscape of our nation's auto capital and industry, by 2020, might be beyond the point of no return. So, if you learned how to go about orchestrating a positive change for the American auto industry in the future, would you stand by and do nothing? The editor of this website, Richard Earl, spent the last 15-years (10 of which were spent living in the Detroit area interviewing people and unearthing one of the greatest stories never told) piecing together the untold Harley Earl narrative. "The untold story of America's modern master is highly inspirational and uncovers a positive roadmap that could assist helping turn General Motors and our nation's auto capital around. Why? Because the underlying story of this auto pioneer is about America's first superstar design-engineer who turned 'Mass Production' into an art form."
Notice date photos were taken at Earl's brand new STYLING SECTION auditorium courtyard at the Tech Center.
Then he continues, "Breaking this story has never been easy because Harley's inside track, that wraps around the mid-twentieth century auto world, finally makes the abstract recognizable for the first time in as far as a general audience seeing this giant new vein into American history never before tapped. All the secrets lay buried from the era centering around the heyday of America's auto industry, the 1950s, and they especially relate to GM's No. 1 trade secrets of the day which was of course centered around how this company went about gaining the greatest reams of market share, ever, in the history of auto making! It's a uniquely iconic Americana story who's main character is the man who put Design on the world's business map, and this auto pioneer and his area of expertise plays the central role of the entire multi-decade long arc of the story. What makes the overall story even more compelling, is how closely Harley's story is tied to why the U.S. auto industry, as a whole, would go on to tank and GM's leaders, following in Mr. Earl's footsteps over the last fifty odd years, simply never wanted anyone to uncover this rich vein of history centering around Mr. Earl being ousted because of a corporate battle, among other things, involved what to do with the Small Car trend in the late 1950s. This was a time when a whole new faction of younger GM leaders went on to take the leadership mantle and as time passed, artfully downplayed their pulling off a silent coup and as time passed did an excellent job covering it all up. Think about it a second, the guys who were ultimately responsible for taking the American auto industry in a ruinous new direction became the ' winners' and ultimately went on to tell the history behind General Motors greatest era! These self-same leaders are closely connected to the same leaders, twenty odd years later in the 1980s, who'd become synonymous for being the worst offenders at making cars that Americans stayed away from in droves as well as desensitizing anything-Detroit related that went on to turn off millions and millions of American consumers from ever again buying a GM or product Made In Detroit all the way into the new century. Not much has changed, for millions of American are still tuned out to cars and trucks built in our nation's auto capital and it's going to take an actual "turn around" to get them to possibly come back! This is the current state of things. What some of these American auto leaders, of the last generation, did is all-wrong (we call it "Realities In the Wrong") and certain ' historical matters ' need to be fleshed out and ultimately corrected in order for the nation's auto capital to ever get back on the right track, regain it's Mojo, and be healthy and grow again. It's that simple."
"Basically for decades now, the media and the public were never allowed to focus on America's iconic Modern Master (yes, you could refer to Harley Earl as the unknown Frank Lloyd Wright of the auto world) and his surrounding GM leaders were this company's (proven in numbers, finance and statistics) greatest cream of the crop of all time. For an inborn reason, or you could say it is a 'call of duty,' I had no other choice but to investigate and expose the discovery I made on these two different cast of characters that sat on the mantle of GM's throne. The first being the true patriotic players responsible for the greatest business success story of the twentieth century. Men like Mr. Earl and other leaders of the largest company, ever, were cornerstones of capitalism and they made very big decisions on the future well being of the U.S.A., back when the No. 1 and No. 2 (GM and Ford) largest companies in the world were headquartered in all places, in metropolitan Detroit. It's important to note, at this time, GM was twice the size of Ford! The top leaders of GM during the golden era of the auto industry, the Fifties, had established a set way or firm business plan in place to follow, in order to steer GM and the rest of the trade into the 1960s and way beyond. Plus, at the time, the auto industry was America's biggest cash-cow, too; so it would be insane to make radical changes to a business paradigm/direction quickly leading this company upwards and onwards since the late-1920s! Their battle ram of choice in big-business to use forgoing into the late '50s and beyond was to be, 'Building Smaller, more Compact Cars.' " Richard then launches into telling about the second cast of characters (leadership mantle of GM) who are also a big part of the overall story and he says, "A new group of off based younger leaders of GM, ruled by hubris, upset things and orchestrated Detroit's auto world to go in a radically different direction. Yes, it's not too far from the one that leaders of GM and others inside America's auto world are still following today! Whereby, the nation's auto industry to a large part is fueled by the legacies of the men and/or leaders who took GM and Detroit's auto world for a ride everyone is all too familiar with these days: One that has gone in a frightening downward direction proven for the last four straight decades in a row, to be disastrous and adversely affects millions and millions of Americans daily in so many different ways."
But back to the Small Car Trend story that began unfolding in America during the '60s; this was the decade prior to the oil shortages when the leaders of young and hungry foreign rivals, like Toyota, started envisioning taking big bites from Detroit's market share pie beginning in the mid-1970s. So, clearly when all these pics (shown and demonstrated here at this section) were taken in the late '50s, visionaries like Harlow Curtice, GM's president at the time, and Harley Earl already were aware of a small foreign car invasion mounting (Alfred Sloan wrote in his best seller, My Years With GM that the company's core execs would automatically launch into the small car game if ever North America's "import sales" ever ticked over the 10% mark, which they started to do in the late 1950s). But the next generation of GM leaders ignored the order to endorse the challenging demands of what many young American consumers wanted to drive going into the 1960s. Instead, the new leaders desired to simply keep building big cars forever since the profit margins were much higher (obviously this was far from the truth). When Earl originally pitched the idea, instead of being greeted warmly, like he had been over the past 30-odd years by GM's principal leaders, he was for the first time met by a formidable wall of opposition (for now, this is a nice way of putting it).
Mr. Earl put the word out to arrange a GM Photographic lensman (Neil Madler was one of many) to come to the Styling Section and document, for visual studies, foreign competitor's small cars intermingling with Earl's newest small car offering, the two-seated Chevrolet "Corvette." Hybrid design-engineering team members of GM's Styling Section – male and female – were then scheduled to drive their cars into the courtyard so they all could be arranged together for this photo shoot. Then each owner was asked to stand next to their respective compact cars; Corvettes, VW Bugs & Karmann Ghias, MGs and Triumphs. In an interview with Harley Earl's son, Jim Earl, he said the following after seeing these telling pictures, "Not long after moving into his new Tech Center office, Harley just looked out the window one day to an adjoining parking lot and saw all the small cars his designers were driving and that's when he came up with the idea for GM to go into the small cars game in a big way. That's why all these photos were taken, to document the moment."
Try and conceptualize what GM and America's auto world would be like today if Harley Earl's last triumphant act had not been derailed? This man had written a success story in big business like no other and was just about to complete his final and most spectacular act.
In a New York Daily Mirror interview, January 25, 1954, the writer addressed Harley Earl's forward vision on building smaller cars for GM in the future: "To designer Earl automobiles are now as big as they're ever going to be." Earl goes on to tell in this interview what has now become a timeless credo, shown below in bold, which all foreign automakers such as Toyota have continuously used for decades now as their No. 1 rule to gain market share in North America:
"Atomic power is a long ways down the road," he said. "But the bigger the dream, the further ahead we look, and we look at everything. The design for the car of tomorrow will emphasize economy, fewer handles and knobs, more glass, less weight and, for making autos more agile at lower speeds. Maybe the experimental XP-21 Firebird [was the first in a series of three that was introduced at the New York Motorama in January, 1954] with its economical running engine holds the answers? The first jet plane," said Earl, "could only fly for a minute or so. Now they cross over the Atlantic. Answers are stubborn things. But if you don't start something you never find them. At least we have a gas turbine engine in a car."
In conclusion, it's hard to deny Harley Earl's vision...especially since he publicly shared his viewpoints as early as 1950 in a magazine article titled, GROWING STOPS FOR AUTOMOBILES, click story below.