1979 Automotive History

To attempt to meet the CAFE requirement of 19 MPG gas mileage this year, Ford pushed sales of the new downsized LTD. Buyers seemed to want the big V8 rather that economical fours and sixes, prompting Ford to increase the price of the V8 model. LTD sales fell rather sharply, putting the reduced-size model far behind Caprice/Impala. LTD II production ceased in January 1979, amid flagging sales. Sales declined considerably for model year 1979, down 15 percent. A gasoline crisis in mid-year didn't help; but mainly, Ford had lagged behind other companies in downsizing its big-car lineup. Pinto sales were good, even though the outmoded design couldn't truly rival the new subcompacts. And sales of the new Mustang were most impressive-nearly 70 percent above the final figure for its second-generation predecessor. A replacement for the Pinto was scheduled for 1981, dubbed "Erika." That would, of course, be changed to Escort by the time the new front-drive subcompact was introduced. Not until then would Ford have a true rival to Chevrolet's Chevette. Lee Iacocca had been fired by Henry Ford II soon after the model year began. Philip Caldwell then became president.

The second energy crisis begins.

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rises to 19 m.p.g., and emissions fall way down.

Kia begins producing Peugeot 604 and Fiat 132 sedans in Korea.