American Motors Corporation (AMC) was an American automobile company formed on January 14 1954 by the merger of the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and the Hudson Motor Car Company. At the time, it was the largest corporate merger in U.S. history, valued at US$198 million ($1.44 billion in 2006 dollars). When declining sales and the competitiveness of the United States auto market forced AMC to seek a partner in the late 1970s, the company formed an alliance with France's Renault. This lasted until March 2 1987, when the Chrysler purchased AMC. Use of the AMC and Renault brand names ceased in the United States. The Jeep line continued; also some Eagle models.
In January 1954 Nash-Kelvinator Corporation began acquisition of the Hudson Motor Car Company (in what was called a merger) to form American Motors. The deal was a straight stock transfer (three shares of Hudson listed at 11⅛, for two shares of AMC and one share of Nash-Kelvinator listed at 17⅜, for one share of AMC) and finalized in the spring of 1954, forming the fourth-biggest auto company in the U.S. with Assets of $355 million and more than $100 million in working capital. The new company retained Hudson CEO A.E. Barit as a consultant and he took a seat on the Board of Directors. Nash's George W. Mason became President and CEO.
Mason, the architect of the merger, believed that the survival of America's remaining independent automakers depended on them joining in one multibrand company capable of challenging the "Big Three" - General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler - as an equal. The reasons for the merger between Nash and Hudson included helping them cut costs and strengthen their sales organizations to meet the intense competition expected from autos' Big Three. One quick result from the merger was the doubling up with Nash on purchasing and production allowing Hudson to cut prices an average of $155 on the Wasp line, up to $204 on the more expensive Hornet models. After the merger, AMC had its first profitable quarter during second three months in 1955, earning $1,592,307 compared to a loss of $3,848,667 during the same period in the previous year. Mason also entered into informal discussions with James J. Nance of Packard to outline his strategic vision. Interim plans were made for AMC to buy Packard Ultramatic automatic transmissions and Packard V8 engines for certain AMC products.
In 1954 Packard acquired Studebaker. The new Studebaker-Packard Corporation (S-P) made the new Packard V8 engine and Packard's Ultramatic automatic transmission available to AMC for its Nash Ambassador and Hudson Hornet models. When Mason died in 1954 he was succeeded by George W. Romney. Ironically, Romney had once been offered Nance's job. In 1948, Romney received offers from Packard for the post of chef operating officer and from Nash for the number two position in the company. Although the Packard offer would have paid more, Romney decided to work under Mason because he thought Nash had a brighter future. S-P President James Nance refused to consider merging with AMC unless he could take the top command position (Mason and Nance were former competitors as heads of the Kelvinator and Hotpoint appliance companies respectively), and a week after Mason's death Romney announced, "there are no mergers under way either directly or indirectly." Romney agreed with Mason's commitment to buy S-P products. Mason and Nance had agreed that in return S-P would endeavor to purchase parts from American Motors, but S-P did not do so. As the Packard engines and transmissions were comparatively expensive, AMC began development of its own V8 engine. In mid-1956, the Packard V8 and TwinUltramatic transmission was phased out and replaced AMC's own new V8 engine, as well as GM's Hydra-Matic and Borg-Warner transmissions.
By 1964 Studebaker production in the United States had ended, and its Canadian operations ceased in 1966. The "Big Three", plus the smaller AMC, Kaiser Jeep, International Harvester, Avanti (automobile) and Checker companies were the remaining North American auto manufacturers.
Product development in the 1950sEdit
American Motors combined the Nash and the Hudson product lines under a common manufacturing strategy in 1955 with the Hudson redesigned to bring it in harmony with Nash body styles and the production of both Nashes and Hudsons combined, This gave Romney a high profile in the media. Two core strategic factors came into play: (1) the use of shared components in AMC products and (2) a refusal to participate in the Big Three's restyling race. This cost-control policy helped Rambler develop a reputation as solid economy cars. Company officials were confident in the changing market and in 1959 announced a $10 million expansion of its Kenosha complex (to increase annual straight-time capacity from 300,000 to 440,000 cars). A letter to shareholders in 1959 claimed that the introduction of new compact cars by AMC's large domestic competitors (for the 1960 model year) "signals the end of big-car domination in the U.S." and that AMC predicts small-car sales in the U.S. may reach 3 million units by 1963. Sonotone had the technology for making sintered plate nickel-cadmium batteries that can be recharged very rapidly and are lighter than a typical automobile lead-acid battery.
Changing focus in the 1960sEdit
In an effort to stay competitive, American Motors produced a wide range of products during the 1960s. In the early part of the decade, sales were strong. In 1961, Ramblers ranked in third place among domestic automobile sales. Romney's strategic focus was very successful during the early 1960s as reflected in the firm's healthy profits year after year. The company became completely debt-free. However, in 1962, Romney resigned to run for Governor of Michigan. His replacement was Roy Abernethy, AMC's successful sales executive.
Abernethy believed that AMC's reputation of building reliable economical cars could be translated into a new strategy that could follow AMC buyers as they traded up into larger, more expense vehicles. The first cars bearing his signature were the 1965 models. These were a longer Ambassador series and new convertibles for the larger models. During mid-year a fastback, called the Marlin, was added. Rather than competing directly with Ford's new pony-car, AMC's "family-sized" car emphasized personal-luxury. Abernethy also called for the de-emphasis of the Rambler brand. The 1966 Marlin and Ambassador lost their Rambler nameplates, and were badged as "American Motors" products. The new models shared fewer parts among each other and were more expensive to build. The continuing quest to match the "Big Three" with annual styling changes required large expenditures. A new line of redesigned cars in the full and mid-sized markets was launched in the fall of 1966. The cars won acclaim for their fluid styling, but Abernathy's ideas did not work as they only confused the firm's core customers. Sales of the new Rebel and Ambassador models dropped after their introduction. There were quality control problems, as well as persistent rumors of the company's demise because of its precarious cash flow.
American Motors did not have its own electric car program as the Big Three, and after some negotiation, a contract was drawn in 1967 with Gulton Industries to develop a new battery based on lithium and a speed controller designed by Victor Wouk. A nickel-cadmium battery powered 1969 Rambler station wagon demonstrated the systems that according to the scientist was a "wonderful car". Starting in 1974, the Matador was made as a boxy sedan and station wagon, and a more smoothly-shaped two-door coupe. After 1975, the sedan and wagon took the place of the discontinued Ambassador as AMC's flagship models. Nash and AMC had made Ambassadors from 1927 to 1974, the longest use of the same model name for any AMC product.
The Matador Coupe shared few components with the sedan other than suspension, drive train, some trim and interior parts. The tooling for the sedans and wagons largely dated from the 1967 Rambler Rebel and had long been paid for. However sales of all large-sized cars fell with the rising gasoline prices.
In 1974 AMC's AM General subsidiary began building urban transit buses in cooperation with Flyer Industries of Winnipeg, Canada. The Metropolitan coach had sold 5,212 units when production ceased in 1978.
The AMC Pacer, an innovative all-new model introduced in 1975 and billed as "the first wide small car", was a subcompact designed to provide the comfort of a full-sized car. Its pre-production development coincided with two changes in U.S. Federal passenger auto laws: first, the reduction in permissible emissions for passenger auto engines, which the Pacer would have met with the Wankel-type engine it was designed for, as the Wankel's compact dimensions allowed space for extensive emission control equipment in the engine bay; second, a tightening of U.S. passenger auto safety laws, which accounted for the Pacer's designed-in safety features, e.g. internal door beams. These, together with the wide body and large glass area, added considerable weight.
With the advent of the Arab Oil Embargo energy crisis of 1973, General Motors aborted the Wankel rotary engine around which the Pacer had been designed, as its fuel consumption exceeded that of conventional engines with similar power. Therefore AMC's existing and AMC Straight-6 engines were used in the Pacer instead. Fuel economy was better than a rotary, but still relatively poor in light of the new focus on energy efficiency. Also, as the Pacer shared few components other than drivetrain with other AMC cars, it was expensive to make and the cost increased when sales fell steeply after the first two years.
Development and production costs for the Pacer and Matador Coupe drained capital which might otherwise have been invested in updating the more popular Hornet and Gremlin lines, so that towards the end of the 1970s the company faced the growing energy crisis with aged products that were uncompetitive in hotly contested markets.
The 1977 Gremlin had redesigned headlights, grille, rear hatch and fascia. For economy in the fuel crisis, AMC offered the car with a more fuel-efficient Volkswagen-designed Audi 4-cylinder engine . The engine was expensive for AMC to build and the Gremlin retained the less costly but also less economical as standard equipment.
Also in 1977 the company revived the AMX nameplate. It was little more than a sporty appearance package on the AMC Hornet hatchback, but the AMC AMX had the company's inline-6 as standard with a choice of 3-speed automatic or 4-speed manual transmissions, and AMC's V8 was optional with the automatic transmission.
As all Matadors now received standard equipment that was formerly optional (e.g. power steering, automatic transmission), the "Brougham" package was dropped. Optional on the Matador coupe was a "landau" vinyl roof with "opera" windows, and top-line Barcelonas offered new two-tone paint.
For 1978, the Hornet platform was redesigned with some altered Gremlin panels and renamed the AMC Concord. AMC targeted it at the emerging "premium compact" market segment, paying particular attention to ride and handling, standard equipment, trim, and interior luxury.
Gremlins borrowed the Concord instrument panel, as well as a Hornet AMX-inspired GT sports appearance package and a new striping treatment for X models.
The AMC Pacer hood was modified to clear a V-8 engine, and a Sports package replaced the former X package. With falling sales of Matador Coupes, sedans and wagons, their V8 engine was dropped, leaving only the Inline-6 (standard on coupes and sedans) and the V8 (optional on coupes and sedans, standard on wagons). The two-tone Barcelona luxury package was offered on Matador sedans, and two-tone red paint introduced as an additional Barcelona option. Matador production ceased at the end of the model year with total sales of 10,576 units.
In 1979 the Spirit sedan replaced the Gremlin. A new fastback version of the car, the Spirit Liftback, proved successful.
In December Pacer production ceased.
Concords received new front end-treatment, and in their final season hatchbacks became available in DL trim. On May 1 1979, AMC marked the 25th anniversary of the Nash-Hudson merger with "Silver Anniversary" editions of the AMC Concord and Jeep CJ in two-tone silver (Jeeps then accounted for around 50% of the company's sales and most of its profits); and introduced "LeCar", a U.S. version of the small, fuel-efficient Renault 5, in dealer showrooms
Concord and Spirit models were dropped after 1983.
Financial developments, Renault involvementEdit
Late 1970s to early 1980sEdit
In February 1977 Time magazine reported that although AMC had lost $73.8 million in the previous two fiscal years, U.S. banks had agreed a year’s extension for a $72.5 million credit that had expired in January; that Stockholders had received no dividends since 1974; and that Pacer sales did not match expectations. However Time noted record Jeep sales and a backlog of orders for AM General’s buses.
Also in 1977, Gerald C. Meyers was appointed chairman and chief executive.
In May 1978 the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the recall of all AMC’s 1976 cars (except those conforming to California emissions regulations)—some 270,000 vehicles—plus 40,000 1975 and 1976 Jeeps and mini trucks, for correction of a fault in the pollution control system. Total cost was estimated at up to $3 million—more than AMC had earned the previous quarter.
AMC lost an estimated $65 million on its conventional (non-Jeep) cars for the fiscal year ended September 30 1978, but strong Jeep sales helped the company to an overall $36.7 million profit on sales of $2.6 billion. However, AMC faced costly engineering work to bring their Jeeps into compliance with a federal directive for 4 wheel drive vehicles to return 15 mpg by 1981.
A year later, with its share of the American market at 1.83%, the company struck a deal with Renault, the nationally-owned French automaker. AMC would receive a $150 million cash injection, $50 million in credits, and also the rights to start building the Renault 5 in 1982. (A deal for Renault products to be sold through the AMC-Jeep dealer network had already been made in 1979.) In return Renault acquired a 22.5% interest in AMC.
However a drop in Jeep sales caused by the declining economy and soaring energy prices began to constrict AMC’s cash flow. At the same time, pressure increased on the company’s non-Jeep product lines. The face-lifts and rebranding of AMC’s once-innovative and successful cars were not enough in a competitive landscape that had changed dramatically. No longer was the threat limited to the Big Three automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler). The Japanese used streamlined production methods such as outsourcing and Just In Time (JIT) supply-chain management. They had new, highly efficient assembly plants in the United States. And now they targeted the heart of AMC's passenger product line: small cars.
While Americans turned to the new imports in increasing numbers, AMC continued its struggle at the inefficient and aging Kenosha, Wisconsin facilities—the oldest continuously operating automobile plant in the world, where components and unfinished bodies still had to be transported across the city.
In early 1980 the banks refused AMC further credit. Lacking both capital and resources for the new, truly modern products it needed to offer, the company turned to Renault for a $90 million loan. By September that year, AMC’s U.S. market share had fallen to 1.7%, and in November sales dropped 19.1%. AMC warned stockholders that the company could be bankrupted if they did not approve a plan for Renault to acquire as much as 59% of the company.
The sinking domestic economy exacerbated AMC's problems, even to the extent that its dealers had to be persuaded to stay open.
In January 1982 the company's former president W. Paul Tippett Jr. replaced Gerald C. Meyers as CEO, and Jose Dedeurwaerder, a Renault executive, became president. Dedeurwaerder brought a broad perspective at this critical time: as an engineer and international business executive with 23 years at Renault, he is credited with streamlining many of AMC's arcane management techniques. He also instituted important improvements in plant layouts, as well as in cost and quality control.
Renault, having increased their stake in the company several times to keep it solvent, eventually owned 49% in 1983. This effectively ended AMC's run as a truly American car company.
New ownership and new management heralded a new product venture for AMC: a line of modern front-wheel drive cars, designed by Renault, to be produced at Kenosha.
1980s product developmentsEdit
Alliance and EagleEdit
First product of the AMC-Renault alliance was the 1983 Renault Alliance, a front-wheel drive Renault 9 compact restyled for the American market by Richard Teague and produced by AMC at Kenosha. Marketed as a Renault, with AMC branding confined to decals on the rear windows, it was available as a sedan with two or four doors, a hatchback (introduced in 1984 and badged as Renault Encore), a two-door convertible and, for the final 1987 model year, a higher-performance version of the 2-door sedan and convertible sold as a Renault GTA.
The new model, introduced at a time of increased interest in small cars, won several awards including Motor Trend Car of the Year. Motor Trend declared: "The Alliance may well be the best-assembled first-year car we’ve ever seen. Way to go Renault!" But in a 1986 Consumer Reports survey of five-year owners, the 1983 Alliance scored worst in the ratings for "Engine", "Clutch", "Driveline", "Engine cooling", "Suspension", "Exhaust system", "Automatic transmission" and "Manual transmission". Sales, which had begun well, declined, and Alliance production ended in June 1987.
Following the 1983 model year, a single model line—the four-wheel drive Eagle—represented the AMC brand. All the company’s remaining output was branded Renault or Jeep.
Introduced in 1980, the Eagle became one of the company's best-known products and is considered one of the first "crossover SUVs". It had a AMC Concord body shell mounted on an all-new platform that had been developed by American Motors in the late 1970s. Featuring an innovative full-time four-wheel drive system, it sold best in snow-prone areas. Sales started strongly but declined over time. The Eagle survived, albeit only in station wagon form, into the 1988 model year. The last one was built on December 14 1987.
More beneficial to AMC’s future was the introduction of an all-new line of compact Jeep Cherokee and Wagoneer models in 1983. The popularity of these downsized Jeeps pioneered a new market segment for what later became defined as the sport utility vehicle (SUV). They initially used the AMC OHV four-cylinder engine with a Carburetor, and a General Motors-built carbureted V6 was optional. In 1986, throttle-body injection replaced the carburetor on the 2.5 L I4 engines. A Renault Turbo-Diesel I4 diesel was also offered. Starting with the 1987 models a I6 engine, derived from the older I6 with a new head design and an electronic fuel injection system, replaced the outsourced V6. American Motors' "new" engine was designed with help from Renault and incorporated Renault-Bendix (Renix) parts for fuel and ignition management. One older design was continued: the Grand Wagoneer full-size luxury SUV and the related J-Series pickups, built on the same chassis as the earlier SJ model Wagoneers and Cherokees that dated from 1963, with the AMC V8. Production of the full-sized pickups ceased after 1987. The Grand Wagoneer and its engine would also be dropped after 1991.
1985 and the final buyoutEdit
Changes in the marketplaceEdit
1985 was a turning point for the company as the market moved away from AMC's small models. With fuel relatively cheap again, buyers turned to larger more powerful automobiles and AMC was unprepared for this development. Even the venerable Jeep CJ-5 was dropped after a 60 Minutes TV news magazine exposé of rollover tendencies under extreme conditions. AMC also confronted an angry work force. Labor was taking revenge, and reports circulated about sabotage of vehicles on the assembly lines because of the failure to receive promised wage increases. There were rumors that the aging Kenosha plant was about to be shut down. At the same time, Chrysler was having trouble meeting demand for its M-body rear-drive models (Dodge Diplomat, Plymouth Gran Fury and Chrysler). They were assembled using the old gate and buck system, so it was easy to move the tools, Chrysler would supply the components and control the quality, while AMC would assemble the car; therefore, Lee Iacocca and Joe Cappy reached an agreement to use some of AMC's idle plant capacity in Kenosha.
Changes in managementEdit
These problems came in the midst of a transfer of power at AMC from Paul Tippet to a French executive, Pierre Semerena. The new management responded with tactical moves by selling the lawn care Wheel Horse Products Division and signing an agreement to build Jeeps in the People's Republic of China. The Pentagon had problems with AM General, a significant defense contractor, being managed by a partially French-government-owned firm. The US government would not allow a foreign government to own a significant portion of an important defense supplier. As a result, the profitable AM General Division was sold. Another milestone was the departure of Dick Teague: AMC's design vice president for 26 years, he was responsible for many Jeep and AMC designs including the Gremlin, Pacer, Matador coupe, Rambler American, AMC Javelin and AMX Hornet
Problems at RenaultEdit
American Motors' major stockholder, Renault, itself was experiencing financial troubles of its own in France. The investment in AMC (including construction of a new Canadian assembly plant in Brampton, Ontario) forced cuts at home, resulting in the closure of several French plants and mass layoffs. Renault was down to just three alternatives regarding its American holdings: (1) They could declare AMC officially bankrupt thereby lose its investment; (2) They could come up with more money, but Renault management perceived AMC as a bottomless pit; or (3) AMC could be put up for sale and the French could get back part of their investment. Against these detractions, Renault's chairman, Georges Besse, continued to champion the French firm's future in the North American market; pointing to the company's completion of the newest and most-advanced automotive assembly plant in North America at the time at Bramalea -- as well as the recent introduction of the thoroughly modern, fuel-injected 4.0-liter and 2.5-liter engines. In addition, Jeep vehicles were riding an unprecedented surge in demand. It seemed to Besse and others that AMC was on course for profitability.
Assassination of Georges BesseEdit
On November 17 1986, Georges Besse, who had a high profile among French capitalists, was assassinated by Action directe (armed group), a clandestine militant extremist group variously described as communist, anarchist and Maoist, which professed strong sympathies for the proletariat and the aspirations of the Third World. The murder was carried out by members of Action Directe's Pierre Overney Commando (named after a Maoist militant killed by a Renault factory guard). The group stated that the murder was in retaliation for Besse having sacked tens of thousands of workers - 34,000 from the French aluminium producer PUK-Péchiney and 25,000 from Renault.
Sale to ChryslerEdit
Under pressure from Renault executives following Besse's death, Renault's new president set out to repair employee relations and divest the company of its investment in American Motors.
The earlier arrangement between Chrysler and AMC, under which AMC would produce Chrysler rear-drive large cars for two years from 1986-88, fed the rumor that Chrysler was about to buy AMC. According to the head of manufacturing for Chrysler at the time, Stephan Sharf, the existing relationship with AMC producing a car for a competitor facilitated the negotiations.
Ironically the sale came at a time when the automotive press was very enthusiastic about the proposed 1988 lineup of Renault and Jeep vehicles, some even speculating AMC/Renault finally had the products to turn the company around.
Later reuse of the nameEdit
A new company was formed in Palmdale, California in 2001 by Ron Simon. Simon registered a new trademark for the monochrome American Motors logo. The company's website specifically claimed no affiliation to the previous American Motors, but used the previous company's logos on its website. The website is now dead, and Simon's trademark expired in 2005.
Continuing business legacyEdit
AMC was forced to constantly innovate for 33 years until it was absorbed by Chrysler in 1987. Moreover, the lessons learned from this experience were integrated into the company that bought AMC. The organization, strategies, as well as several key executives allowed Chrysler to gain an edge on the competition. Even today, the lessons gained from the AMC experience continue to provide benefits to other firms in the industry. There are a number of legacies from AMC's business strategies.
American Motors' ability to formulate strategies were often evaluated by industry critics as "strokes of brilliance". According to Roy D. Chapin Jr., AMC realized they were up against the giants of the industry, so to compete successfully; they had to be able to move quickly and with ingenuity. For example, it preached fuel efficiency long before auto buyers demanded it. AMC sought out partnerships in manufacturing and sales worldwide, decades before any of the international consolidations among automobile makers took place. AMC was first in seeking refuge with a foreign automaker, Renault, to keep operating. Although small in size, the company was able to introduce numerous innovations. Even one of AMC's most expensive new product investments (the Pacer) established many features that were later adopted by the auto industry worldwide. These included aerodynamic body design, space-efficient interiors, aircraft style doors, and a large greenhouse for visibility. AMC's four-wheel drive vehicles established the foundation for today's SUV market and the "classic" Jeep models continue to be the benchmark in this field. AMC was also effective in other areas such as marketing by introducing low rate financing. Chapin drew on his experiences as a hunter and fisherman and marketed the Jeep brand successfully to people with like interests. The brand developed a cult appeal that continues.
According to Robert Lutz, former President of Chrysler, the AMC acquisition was a big and risky undertaking. The purchase was part of Chrysler's strategic "retreat-cum-diversification" plan that he states did not have the right focus. Initially the goal was to obtain the world-renowned Jeep brand. However, Lutz discovered that the decision to buy AMC turned out to be a gold mine for Chrysler. At that time, Chrysler's management was attempting to find a model to improve structure and operations, "something that would help get our minds unstuck and thinking beyond the old paradigms that we were so familiar with". In this transformation, "Chrysler's acquisition of AMC was one of the all-time great moments in corporate serendipity" according to Lutz "that most definitely played a key role in demonstrating how to accomplish change". After first reacting with anger to the purchase, Chrysler managers soon anticipated the benefits. To further solidify the organizational competencies held by AMC, Lee Iacocca agreed to retain former AMC units, such as engineering, completely intact. In addition, AMC's lead engineer, François Castaing, was made head of all engineering at Chrysler. In an unthinkable strategic move, Castaing completely dismantled the entrenched Chrysler groups. In their place AMC's "platform" were implemented. These were close-knit cross-functional groups responsible for the whole vehicle, as contrasted with Chrysler's highly functional structure. In this capacity, Castaing's strategy was to eliminate the corporate administrative overhead bureaucracy. This move shifted corporate culture and agitated veteran executives who believed that Chrysler's reputation as "the engineering company" was being destroyed. Yet, according to the popular press, by the 1980s Chrysler's reputation was totally shot, and by Lutz's view only dramatic action was going to change that.
Renault implemented the lessons it learned from its investment in AMC. The French firm took a parallel approach as it did with its initial ownership of AMC and applied it to resurrect the money-losing Nissan automaker in Japan.
Legacy of productsEdit
Chrysler revived the "Spirit" name dropped by AMC after 1983 for use on one of its Chrysler cars, (the Dodge Spirit) from 1989 to 1995. The planned Renault Medallion was sold as the Eagle Medallion in 1988 and 1989. A Renault/AMC concept, the Summit (slated to replace the Eagle station wagon), was produced by Mitsubishi Motors beginning in 1989. The planned all-new 1988 Renault Premier, a joint development effort between American Motors and Renault, and for which the Brampton Assembly plant (Brampton, Ontario) was built, was sold by Chrysler as the 1988-1992 Eagle Premier, with a rebadged Dodge Monaco variant available from 1990-1992. The full-sized Premier's platform was far more advanced than anything Chrysler was building at the time. After some re-engineering and a re-designation to Chrysler code LH, the Eagle Premier went on to form the backbone of Chrysler's passenger car lineup during the 1990s as the Chrysler (another revived AMC model name that was briefly used by Plymouth in the early 1950s), Chrysler, Chrysler, Dodge Intrepid, and Eagle Vision. The Chrysler was likewise a Premier/LH-derived car and was initially to have been the next-generation Eagle Vision, until the Eagle brand was dropped after 1998. Hence the much lauded "cab forward" designed that Chrysler took so much credit for in the 90's was actually a modified and sleekly restyled version of the AMC/Renault collaration that resulted in the Premier.
The American Motors-developed Jeeps survived for a long time under Chrysler. The Comanche pickup truck lasted until 1992, while the Cherokee remained until 2001 in the United States (the XJ Cherokee was produced in China through 2006 as the Cherokee 2500). Although it was not introduced until 1993, the Jeep Grand Cherokee was initially an AMC-developed vehicle. The 1997 through 2006 Jeep Wrangler is really a lightly updated development of the original American Motors-designed Wrangler introduced in 1986 for the 1987 model year.
Other traces of AMC remain within the present-day Chrysler. AMC's Toledo, Ohio plants continue to turn out Jeep Wranglers and Libertys as well as parts and components for Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles (although Toledo Machining and Forge is slated for closure as of 2005). AMC's main plant in Wisconsin is still active, albeit heavily downsized, as the Kenosha Engine Plant, producing engines for several Chrysler Group products, including the Wrangler. The 242 CID/4.0 L engine was used until the 2006 model year by DaimlerChrysler in the Jeep Wrangler. AMC's technologically advanced Bramalea Assembly and Stamping Plants in Brampton, Ontario now produce the best-selling Chrysler - the Dodge Charger, Dodge Magnum, and the Chrysler.
AM General, sold by American Motors in 1982, is still in business building the likewise American Motors-designed High Mobility Multi-Wheel Vehicle (HMMWV - "Humvee") for the American and allied militaries. AM General also built the now-discontinued civilian variant - the H1 - and still manufactures a Chevrolet Tahoe-derived companion, the H2, under contract to General Motors, new owners of the civilian Hummer brand.
Many AMC models are now considered "future collectibles".
For example, only 578 Ambassador 4-door Hardtop station wagons were produced for 1959, making it a rare and desirable collector car.
Hemmings Classic Car magazine included the 1969-70 AMC Matador Rebel SST four-door sedan and the 1975-1978 Matador coupe in their 2008 list of "dollar-for-pound [weight]" cars that could be bought in show-quality condition for a comparatively modest outlay, although buyers were advised against examples with 6-cylinder engines "purely for performance reasons". The writer also noted that "most of AMC's '70s lineup" qualified for inclusion on the list.
The "collector" AMC models (Javelin, AMX, and performance versions such as the 1957 Rambler Rebel, 1965-67 Rambler Marlin, 1969 Hurst SC/Rambler, 1970 Rebel Machine, and 1971 Hornet SC/360) have always had an enthusiastic following. In January 2007 the AMC AMX was "really taking off in the muscle car market" according to the editors of an American classic-car magazine, and it had "left its mark among AMC collectors' minds as a great alternative" to higher-priced Hemi-powered muscle cars. An undated article cited "several fully restored AMX models" listed for sale at "little more than half the price of a comparable Buick Gran Sport, Chevrolet Chevelle, Olds 4-4-2 or Pontiac GTO" in support of the author’s opinion that the Javelin was "clearly an outstanding alternative muscle car for the enthusiast on a budget."
Gremlins are "quite collectible" because of their increasing scarcity, according to one member of the Blogosphere. A December 2000 article said that as the Gremlin shares components with some other AMC models its repair and restoration can be relatively inexpensive compared with other "historic cars".
However one AMC expert who owns thirteen Gremlins estimates that 90% of the surviving cars are modified because parts are so hard to find, while another enthusiast had to buy eight Gremlin parts cars before he could begin restoring his 1974 Gremlin X to stock.
The early Javelin is considered a fun and affordable American classic with a rich racing pedigree and style that will always stand out from the omnipresent packs of Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler pony cars. The Gremlin has been said to have "a cult-like following in today’s collectible car market."
In 2006, a 1967 Rambler American Rogue in unknown condition was offered for $3500, and a 1967 American 440 hardtop with drag-racing history, condition also unknown, for $3300.
One dealer in automotive literature noted in 2006 that she had sold 544 AMC, Nash and Rambler brochures in two years.
There are active Rambler and AMC car clubs in the U.S. and elsewhere.
During its long history, American Motors bought, sold and spun-off many components. Some of these still exist today, albeit in vastly changed forms.
- Kelvinator, the largely ignored half of Nash-Kelvinator, was sold off by American Motors in 1958 and now owned by Electrolux. The Kelvinator Company is still in business.
- Jeep is now a brand of the Chrysler Group, a privately owned unit of Cerberus Capital Management (Daimler continues to hold a 19.9% stake). Many Jeep models retained the mechanical specifications and styling cues that were developed by AMC well into the 1990s.
- AM General survives and is now owned by MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings and the Renco Group. It was organized as an LLC in August 2004.
- Beijing Jeep was established by AMC in 1983 to produce Jeeps for the burgeoning Chinese market; the joint venture was inherited by Chrysler and continues to this day under the ownership of the new Chrysler. AMC's trials with the venture were the subject of a fairly well-known book on the venture, "Beijing Jeep", by James Mann.
Many of the facilities used to produce American Motors vehicles and sub-assemblies are still in use. These include:
- Plymouth Road Office Center located at 14250 Plymouth Road in Detroit, was built in 1926-27 by the Electric Refrigeration Corporation (Kelvinator). The building was designed by Amedeo Leoni; industrial layout by Wallace McKenzie, and tower enclosure and industrial units by William E. Kapp, of SHG. The original 600,000 square foot three-story plant facility and four-story administration building (with distinctive tower -- the NK logo has since been removed) was rebadged and home to Nash-Kelvinator from 1937-1954, and AMC World Headquarters from 1954-1987.
- In the late 1940s, it was known as the Kelvinator Factory and General Administration Building, and produced refrigerators, electric ranges, and commercial refrigeration. Also airplane propellers were produced for the Defense Department during World War II.
- During World War II, the Defense Department contracted with Nash-Kelvinator to produce 900 R-6 helicopters. As part of that contract, a site north of the factory was used as the smallest airport in the world, as a testing facility. Nash-Kelvinator produced about fifty R-6s a month during the war, and when the contract was terminated at the end of the war, only 262 helicopters had actually been completed. An additional twenty were left in various stages of completion on the assembly line.
- Today, the Plymouth Road Office Center is home to the new Chrysler organization's Jeep and (Dodge) Truck Engineering, or JTE. Engineering of Jeep and Dodge Truck (BoF or Body on Frame) platforms is performed there, as well as testing facilities and labs.
- Toledo North and South Assembly Plants - still in use by Chrysler. Still visible on most of the signage on the outside of the factories are areas where Chrysler painted over the AMC logo.
- Toledo Machining and Forge - still in use by Chrysler
- Brampton Assembly. - still in use by Chrysler. AMC designed this US$260 million, plant, which was operational by 1986. This plant was designed and built by AMC for the specific purpose of building the Eagle Premier. Like the older Brampton plant (below), this facility was also part of American Motors Canada, Inc., and with the Chrysler buy-out in 1987, became part of Chrysler Canada Limited. The plant currently builds the LX series of vehicles including the Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Charger.
- Kenosha Engine Plant - Portions of the "Main Plant", with some new additions, on 52nd Street and 30th Avenue are still in use by DaimlerChrysler.
- American Center - AMC's corporate headquarters in Southfield, Michigan is still standing, still open, and still called "American Center". The original "American Center" signage at the top of the building remained until 2005, although the AMC logo has been removed. The signage has since been changed to Charter One. The 25-story building is rented to several different organizations and companies as office space. After the Chrysler acquisition, none of the office space was occupied by DaimlerChrysler or any other entity related to AMC.
- Canadian Fabricated Products Ltd. - An AMC division (part of AMC Canada, Ltd.) in Stratford, Ontario; established 1971 and sold post-buyout by DaimlerChrysler in 1994; produced automotive interior trim.
- Guelph Products - An AMC division (also part of AMC Canada, Ltd.) in Guelph, Ontario; opened in 1987, and subsequently sold by Chrysler in early 1993; the operation supplied moulded plastic components to the Brampton Assembly Plant. of Sarnia, Ontario, to supply AMC with cylinder block castings. Holmes was established in 1918, by Mr. J. S. Blunt, and was called Holmes Blunt Limited. In those early years, Ford Motor Company contracted the plant for a steady supply of engine casting blocks. American Motors acquired twenty-five percent interest in the foundry in January 1966. In July 1970, AMC acquired 100% of Holmes Foundry. However, it was not until October 1981 that Holmes Foundry finally became a Division of American Motors, Canada. Chrysler Corporation took ownership of the Holmes facility and its manufacturing business in 1987 as part of its acquisition of AMC; but closed the operation on September 16 1988. The industrial facilities were cleaned of their environmental contaminants in 2005, in preparation for a new highway interchange to be built on the site.
Former Factory Facilities
- Kenosha Main (Kenosha, Wisconsin) Plant - Portions of the main AMC plant in downtown Kenosha were razed, and after reclamation, the land was used for new development. The Engine plant section is still in use by Chrysler to this day. At the company's inception in 1954, the Main Plant covered 3,195,000 square feet.
- Lakefront (Kenosha, Wisconsin) Plant - The portions of the AMC plant that were at the Lake Michigan lakefront adjacent to the Port of Kenosha (a.k.a the "Lakefront Plant") were razed, and after reclamation, the land was used for new lakefront development.
- Milwaukee Body (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) Plant - AMC inherited a 1.6 million square foot due to labor problems. The plant survived until the Chrysler buyout. Chrysler later decided to dispose of the facility. Upon closure, the site was named as a Superfund site. The factory was demolished and the site rehabilitated and redeveloped.
- Danforth Ave (Toronto, Ontario) Plant - Inherited from Nash. This plant was purchased by Nash from Ford of Canada in 1946. The first Canadian-built Nash rolled off the line in April, 1950. Upon the formation of American Motors in 1954, the plant assembled 1955 Nash and Hudson Ramblers (2- and 4-door sedans); as well as Nash Canadian Statesman and Hudson Wasp (4door sedans). In 1956, the plant continued to assemble Nash and Hudson Rambler (4-door sedans and wagons) and the Nash Canadian Statesman (4-door sedan); but The Hudson Wasp was imported. That same year, American Motors Sales (Canada) Limited was formed - taking over Nash Motors of Canada Limited and Hudson Motors of Canada Limited. In 1957, AMC assembled the Rambler Six and Rambler Rebel V8 at the Danforth plant; but in July, 1957, AMC closed the plant and imported Ramblers into Canada until 1961.
- Tilbury, Ontario Assembly Plant - Another plant AMC inherited from the 1954 merger; this one via Hudson. Specifically, it was a contract with CHATCO Steel Products which actually owned the plant. American Motors ceased Hudson production at the Tilbury plant in 1955.
- Brampton Assembly Plant - AMC opened a plant in 1960 in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, and was part of American Motors Canada, Inc. In 1987, with the Chrysler buy-out, the division and the plant were absorbed as well, becoming part of Chrysler Canada Limited. The plant was closed in 1994 and sold to Wal-Mart for use as their Canadian warehouse. Note that this is a separate facility from the current Brampton Assembly and Satellite Stamping Plants nearby.
- South Charleston Stamping Plant - Owned by Park Corporation of Cleveland, OH since 1969. While AMC leased it, the plant stamped steel automotive parts. The plant was later leased to other auto companies. The plant was in the news in October 2006 as the most recent tenant, Union Stamping and Assembly, declared bankruptcy.
American Motors in popular cultureEdit
The automaker was famous as an independent underdog, for which it served as an analogy in other contexts.
- Books: AMC vehicles appear in The World’s Worst Cars, The Worst Cars Ever Sold, Lemon! and Automotive Atrocities (which includes four AMC cars).
- New media: AMC products also appear in published lists solicited from the general public, such as: MSNBC.com's 2005 "least-loved American autos", Time.com's 2007 "50 Worst Cars of All Time", and "The Most Questionable Car Designs of All Time", a 2007 survey of nearly 2500 policyholders with a major collector-car insurance company.
- Feature films and television: Jeeps are commonplace in American films, but other AMC cars, driven by featured characters and/or partipants in car chases, are also seen in movies such as:
- A Woman Under the Influence (1974) – Hornet
- The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) – 1974 Matador Coupe converts to an airplane; 1974 Hornet performs a corkscrew jump.
- Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) – Matador
- Grand Theft Auto (1977) – Matador
- Oh, God! (1977) - main character Jerry Landers (John Denver) drives a Pacer.
- The Betsy (1978) – some footage of 1978 Concords and Spirits being built at the Kenosha plant.
- Police Academy (1984) – Matador
- Wayne's World (1992) – Pacer
- Wayne's World 2 (1993) – Pacer
- Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000 TV show) – Gremlin, often referred to by name, driven by the character Kim Kelly.
- Beethoven's 3rd (2000) – Pacer
- Loony Tunes Back in Action (2003) – Gremlin
- Cars (movie) (2006) – various AMC and related cars, including Hudson Hornet, Jeep, Eagle Talon and Rambler Ambassador.
- The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) – various AMC vehicles.
- The Happening (2008) - 1978 or 1979 Jeep Wagoneer
AMC models and products Edit
- 1955-1962: Metropolitan*
- 1970-1978: AMC Gremlin**
- 1979-1983: Spirit
- 1981-1983: Eagle (SX/4 and Kammback)
- 1983-1987: Renault Alliance based on the Renault 9.
- 1984-1987: Renault Encore - based on the Renault 11.
* - The Metropolitan was introduced by Nash in 1954.
** - The Gremlin was the company's first modern subcompact.
- 1955-1956: Nash Rambler/Hudson Rambler
- 1957: Rambler Six/Rambler Rebel
- 1958-1969: Rambler American/AMC Rambler
- 1968-1970: AMX
- 1968-1974: Javelin
- 1970-1977: AMC Hornet
- 1975-1980: AMC Pacer
- 1978-1983: AMC Concord
- 1980-1988: Eagle
- 1958-1960: Rambler Six/Rambler Rebel
- 1961-1966: Rambler Classic
- 1958-1964: Rambler Ambassador (1958-1962 also known as "Ambassador by Rambler")
- 1965-1966: Rambler/AMC Marlin
- 1967-1970: Rambler/AMC Rebel
- 1971-1978: AMC Matador
- 1955-1956: Hudson Wasp
- 1955-1956: Nash Statesman
- 1955-1957: Hudson Hornet
- 1955-1957: Nash Ambassador
- 1965-1974: Rambler/AMC Ambassador
- 1967: AMC Marlin
- 1988-1992: Eagle Premier
Engines used by AMCEdit
- AMC Straight-6 engine I6 (L head and OHV version-ended 1965)
- AMC Straight-6 engine I6 started 1966
- AMC Straight-6 engine I6 started production 1964
- V8 engine V8
- V8 engine V8 (also used by Kaiser Jeep 1965-1967)
- AMC Straight-6 engine I6
- AMC Straight-6 engine I6
- (Ending in 1969) V8 engine V8
- (Beginning in 1970) V8 engine V8
- (Ending in 1969) V8 engine V8
- (Beginning in 1970) V8 engine V8
- V8 engine V8
- AMC I4 1
- AMC Straight-6 engine I6
- AMC Straight-6 engine I6
- (Beginning in 1970) V8 engine V8
- (Beginning in 1970) V8 engine V8 (Ending in 1978 for automobiles and through 1991 in Jeeps)
- V8 engine V8 (Ending in 1974 as a regular production order in automobiles; was available in fleet/police use until at least 1975, in 1975 89 units were installed in Matadors; 4 coupes and 85 sedans-wagons. Available in full size Jeeps through 1979.)
- OHV four-cylinder engine I4
- GM V6
- AMC Straight-6 engine I6
- OHV four-cylinder engine I4
- 242 CID (4.0 L) AMC Straight-6 engine I6
- OHV four-cylinder engine I4
- PRV V6 V6
Also: Kaiser Jeeps used the AMC 327, Buick 225 ("Dauntless V6"), Buick 350 ("Dauntless V8"), Willys 134 I4 ("Hurricane").
1 AMC contracted with Volkswagen to buy tooling for the Audi 2.0 L OHC I4. Major parts (block, crankshaft, head assembly) were initially purchased from Audi and shipped to the U.S. where final assembly was accomplished by AMC at a plant purchased specifically for production of this engine. Sales never reached numbers to justify taking over total production. AMC made several changes to the engine. They were prevented from using the Volkswagen or Audi names in association with the AMC assembled version by contractual agreement.
Hot Rod Magazine revival April Fool's jokeEdit
In April 2008, Hot Rod Magazine released an article claiming that American Motors was in the process of being revived. The vehicles in the works were to be the AMX, AMC Matador, Rambler/AMC Ambassador, AMC Pacer, and AMC Gremlin. Illustrated with drawings of the concept cars entering production and accompanied by plentiful information, it was an extremely popular article, although it was later revealed to be an April Fools' Day joke.
- Fracassa, Hawke. "Roy D. Chapin Jr., ex-AMC chairman gambled to save Jeep". The Detroit News. August 7, 2001
- Higgins, James V., "Roy Chapin Jr. mastered how to survive in auto industry". The Detroit News, August 12, 2001
- Taylor III, Alex. "Finally GM is looking good". Fortune, Vol. 145, Nr. 7, 2002, pp. 69-74
See also Edit
- Amitron and Electron - Experimental battery powered City cars designed by American Motors.
- AMC/Jeep Transmissions
- AMC Rambler Club, Inc. - recognizes all AMC vehicles from 1954 through 1987.
- American Motors Owners Association - recognizes all AMC-produced vehicles from 1958 through 1987.
- AMC Club of Finland
- Dakota AMC Club - Celebrates AMC's Great Cars 1958 to 1988.
Restoration, history & general information Edit
- AMCArchives.org An AMC-specific Wiki
- AMCyclopedia.org - an extensive collection of documentation, focusing on history and restoration.
- American Motors Owners' Association main links page - AMC major sites, restoration parts sources, etc
- AMXFiles.com - AMC History on AMXfiles.com
- American Motors Cars Magazine - a small "fanzine" type magazine covering AMC cars, 1954-88. Covers everything from restoration to modification; articles on individual cars, history, and technical details.
-  The history of the Eagle
- The AMC-List - an email list dedicated to supporting the preservation of AMC automobiles.
- The American Motors Forum - an online AMC forum
- The AMC Eagle forum - an online forum for AMC Eagles from 1980-1988
- The AMCForum - another AMC forum
- Jeffery Elementary School, Kenosha, WI - A Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) primary school named after Thomas B. Jeffery. Perhaps fittingly, the school's team name is the "Jeffery Gremlins" and their logo is a copy of the AMC Gremlin logo.
- AMC's Holmes Foundry - labor issues on the Canadian Auto Workers site
- Science & Engineering magazine - Environmental cleanup at Holmes Foundry
Photo galleries Edit
- Collier Motors
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