20s cars continued to flourish under the sure hand of Alfred Sloan.
Sloan joined GM in 1916 when his company, Hyatt Roller Bearing, was acquired by GM. He made a lot of money in the purchase, and then found himself in management. By 1923, he was running GM - at that time, the largest industrial corporation in the world. His thoughtful management resulted in innovation heretofore unknown in corporate America. Fiscal restraint, thoughtful, detailed research, and teamwork were the hallmarks in running the once stodgy company.
Starting with a Ford, then a Chevrolet would lead a buyer to another car, a Buick or an Olds, or ultimately a Cadillac. Sloan was receptive to the demands of the market, aware that 1920's cars were sold to the tune of almost 20 million units.
Ford Model T
Sloan thought that if subtle changes in design and technology were introduced each year, and were supported by a shrewd and advertising campaign, the average car owner would almost certainly grow dissatisfied with his current model. Once lured in the showroom, he would, through salesmanship compelled to buy another desirable car.
The Tin Lizzie
More Interesting 20s Cars Stories
Ford had lost its position as industry leader in 1927. Harley Earl entered GM's management armed with boldness and vision, who considered automobile design to be an art form. He started work at GM as a consulting engineer. His first car for General Motors was the 1927 La Salle, intended to fill a gap between the moderately priced Buick 6 and the high-end Cadillac. These 20s cars were warmly received by both automotive critics and the buying public, allured by the cars' soft, elegant lines.
1927 GM LaSalle 5-Passenger Sedan
Henry Ford, meanwhile clung to Model T. In 1926, despite being
offered in a choice of colors, the public spurned it. Perhaps it was
time for Ford to listen to his son, Edsel, along with his senior
Eventually, he relented. With sales of Model T plunging 30 percent, Ford came to the realization that Model T's time had passed. On May 25, 1927, the company was planning to unveil a new car to replace the Model T. Six days later the last Tin Lizzie rolled off the assembly line.
Henry Ford was a survivor but a shrewd one. He held car buyers in suspense, not letting the press know what's up his sleeve. He imposed a "news blackout" that fueled speculation what his new car will be. Although many car buyers were going to Chevrolet showrooms, many others were waiting in the wings, not intent in buying any 20s cars in those showrooms. Speculation in the press fueled even greater interest, and soon rumors were rampant.
1927-1931 Model A Ford
The Model A was a success. In both style and substance, it was superior to Model T but it was hardly a groundbreaking vehicle; rather, it was an inexpensive, modernized version of its drab but reliable cousin.
Chevrolet's introduction of a new six-cylinder model in 1929 allowed GM
to quickly recover. Within a few years, GM was producing 50 percent of
all cars sold in America. In 1929, more than five million cars were
sold, a record that stood for two decades. The auto was at the top of
the shopping list. 20s cars were no longer a luxury; owning one was a
1926 Pontiac Series 6-27 Landau Coupe
Not everyone could afford to pay for a new car in
cash. 20s cars became more affordable to the public when dealers
encouraged purchasing on the installment plan. The concept of buying on
credit was started by Isaac Singer 75 years before. By 1925, 75 percent
of all new cars were purchased on the installment plan. Henry Ford was
opposed to selling cars on credit but Alfred Sloan didn't and in so
doing redefined the American consumer society.
Above, hungry people in a soup line during the Great Depression
Above, the Dust Bowl captured by camera
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