Model year sales increased modestly
for 1978, though production slipped a bit. Major recalls of more than 4 million
vehicles, however (and investigations of many more), did Ford's reputation no
good. Most serious were the Pintos recalled for gas tank that might burst into
flame, followed by automatic transmissions that were alleged to jerk suddenly
from "park" to "reverse" (a situation that never was fully resolved). At this
time, too, Ford president Lee Iacocca was replaced by Philip Caldwell; and
Iacocca reemerged within a gew months as the new head of Chrysler. The new
compact Fairmont sold far better than its predecessor Maverick: 417,932
Fairmonts versus just 105,156 Mavericks sold in 1977. Fairmont sold even better
as a first-year car than had Mustang when it was introduced. 1977 had been
Thunderbird's best sales year, and it sold well in 1978 too. Granada and LTD II
sales plummeted for the model year. Fairmont was "the most successful new-car
nameplate ever introduced by a domestic manufacturer and Ford's top selling car
line in 1978," said Walter S. Walla, Ford Division General Manager. It was also
highly rated by teh auto magazines. Readers of Car and Driver called it "most
significant new American car for 1978. Computer-assisted design techniques had
been used to develop the Fairmont/Zephyr duo, along with over 320 hours of
wind-tunnel testing. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards began this
year. Automakers' fleets would be required to meet a specified average
miles-per-gallon rating each year for the next decade, with 27.5 MPG the
ultimate goal. Fairmont, in fact, was designed with the CAFE ratings in mind,
which required that Fords average 18 MPG. This year's model introduction
meetings had been held in the Detroit and Dearborn area for the first time since
1959. More than 15,000 dealers, general managers and spouses attended. The
international emphasis was highlighted by a "flags of the world of Ford" display
ot the world headquarters, in a special ceremony. On the import front Ford began
to import the tiny front-wheel drive Fiesta from its German plant.
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) instituted at 18 m.p.g.
Lee Iacocca is fired from Ford, and hired at Chrysler.
The new Porsche Type 928 becomes the first sports car chosen "Car of the
Chrysler sells its Eurpoean interests to Peugeot-CitroŽn for £117 million,
with a 15 percent share in the resulting combination.