1978 Automotive History

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.

The 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 Year."

Chrysler sells its Eurpoean interests to Peugeot-CitroŽn for £117 million, with a 15 percent share in the resulting combination.

Kia develops a domestic diesel engine for Korea.