RALPH NADER AND THE CORVAIR
Back in 1959, when gas was selling for $.25 cents a gallon and 14 years before anyone had any inkling of a gas shortage, Chevrolet came up with the idea of manufacturing a "compact car" similar to small European cars, that would be energy efficient. They called it the Corvair. It sold like hotcakes. Within two years Ford came out with its competing Falcon.
My Dad, a General Motors Engineer, bought one of the first Corvairs, the one-design four door model, and we all enjoyed driving it. In 1963, I purchased an improved 1962 Corvair two door. My cousin's husband bought the new turbo-charged SPyder, and blew everyone off the track at the Martin Speedway in Grand Rapids, MI. A good time was had by all.
In 1964, Ralph Nader, an unknown young lawyer wrote a book, Unsafe at any Speed, a book containing substantial references and material from industry insiders, detailing resistance by car manufacturers to the introduction of safety features, like seat belts, and their general reluctance to spend money on improving safety. Nader decried the design, particularly the rear end assembly, and carped that the rear tires were calibrated to have more PSI than the fron tires (Of course it was a rear-engine car, so it was heavier in the rear, but details, details). Chapter One featured the Corvair, and subsequently got the most attention and publicity.
Nader's book was a huge seller, and Nader became a somebody as the first "consumer advocate." Full disclosure, I almost rolled my Corvair trying to impress a girl with the (non-existent, as it turned out ) handling capabilities of the car.
As a result of the book, the Corvair was discontinued in 1965, and the Big - 3 ( With the exception of the outstanding 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang, which I promptly purchased) concentrated once again on manufacturing big gas guzzlers. Many say Nader ruined America's fledging small-car industry to the end of advancing his career. Whatever.
In the ensuing years, Toyota introduced its compact car into the USA Market and the awful quality introduced the slogan "Made In Japan" into our vocabulary. For years, Consumer Report rated the Toyota (by far) as the least safe automobile sold in the United States. So, did Ralph Nader follow up with "Unsafe at any Speed II ?" No, in fact while the quality of the Toyota was responsible for innumerable fatalities, and an enormous number of breakdowns and repairs, the Dilettante Ralph Nader said nothing.
Not only was Mr. Nader the father of consumer advocacy (a good thing), but also he was the precursor of the Anti-American American - the Progressive who sees fault in every facet of American businesses, but ignores even the most obvious faults of consumer products from America's foreign competitors.
In light of his lack of objectivity, one can certainly question Mr. Nader's motives in singling out American cars as being Unsafe at any Speed.