Throwback Thursday

A little bit of a change for Throwback Thursday.

Who was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1955? You can probably guess that he had something to do with automobiles. Any idea? OK, here is the cover:

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From a Pinterest site a picture of the Time Magazine cover announcing Harlow Curtice, who was the GM President from 1953 to 1958, as Man of the Year for 1955. In the article about Curtice Time wrote, “in a job that required it, he has assumed the responsibility of leadership for American business. In his words ‘General Motors must always lead.'”

Curtice aggressively increased capital expenditure for GM in the 1950s forcing Ford and Chrysler to do the same and, perhaps unintentionally, sounding the death knell for the independent manufacturers. Even with the increase in capital spending, in 1955 General Motors became the first corporation in history to record a profit of more than $1 billion in a single year. As I wrote here General Motors’ 1955 production increased almost 70% compared to 1954, which is impressive even in light of the overall industry increase of 43%. After further research, I don’t know if I can trust those numbers exactly, but the general conclusion is still correct.

In 1955 GM had more than a 50% market share of the US auto industry. It produced more than twice as many cars as Ford and more than three times as many as Chrysler. That dominance (an inside reference) was aided by the company’s new cars for 1955, cars like this:

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From a picture of a 1955 Pontiac Star Chief. Chevrolet wasn’t the only GM make with a great 1955 model year. Take a look at the increase in production in 1955 compared to 1954 for all of the GM makes:

Chevrolet    +49%

Buick           +66%

Oldsmobile +65%

Pontiac        +92%

Cadillac        +45%

Given the GM policy of mandatory retirement at age 65, Curtice retired from his position as President in 1958. Sadly, the next year he accidentally shot and killed retired GM vice president, Harry W. Anderson, while on a duck hunting trip to Canada.

Deservedly, Curtice was elected to the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1971 although it was a posthumous selection as he died in 1962. Who knows how the burden of having accidentally killed his friend weighed on him?

As I have written in Disaffected Musings and elsewhere the decline of General Motors is a story that would take hundreds, if not thousands, of pages to tell. Of course books have been written on the subject, but the ones I have read all seem to have had an agenda. I would have preferred an objective and honest treatment of the topic. No, I am not going to write that book. I think three published books is enough for me, thanks.

I apologize for not writing more about Curtice, but I am not that well versed on his life and didn’t simply want to copy snippets of other work.


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