The American auto industry's "Big Three" are on the ropes, claiming to face imminent bankruptcy if the government won't give them billions loans, which looks like it may not happen. General Motors and Chrysler are in the direst shape, with Ford somewhat better off.
While both the concatenation of events leading to this situation and the potential scope of failure are unprecedented, the loss of a brand (or three, or even an entire multibrand manufacturer) is not.
Oldsmobile was a recent single-brand loss. Ditto Plymouth a few years back. Thirty years ago, it was the "Big Four," the fourth being American Motors, which was born from the merger of Nash and Hudson in 1954 and which even in the late 1970s was in trouble. An alliance with Renault failed to save AMC, and it was swallowed up by Chrysler in 1987. The Eagle nameplate survived for a few years after that; Jeep is still with us.
Before that, there was Studebaker. Best known for innovative (or was it outrageous?) styling in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the futuristic Avanti of the 1960s, Studebaker predated the automobile. The company started as a wagon-builder in the mid-19th century, and constructed many of the Conestoga wagons that brought pioneers to the American west. … Read more