1954 The Making Of An Independent

Essay by allure March 2004

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Stockholders of the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and the Hudson Motor Car Company approved the proposed merger of the two firms. The companies would form the American Motors Corporation (AMC). AMC is recognized as the most successful postwar independent manufacturer of cars. It owed its success in large part to its remarkable President George Romney. Born to Mormon missionary parents on a Mormon colony in Chihuahua, Mexico, Romney grew up poor. His grandfather, Miles Romney, who had been born in Nauvoo, Illinois, the original site of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, had four wives and sired 30 children. Unlike most of the great figures of the American automotive industry, Romney had little experience actually building cars. He had made his mark as a spokesman and advocate during stints as a lobbyist. His first car-related job was the director position of the Automobile Manufacturers Association. He joined the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation in 1948 as the special assistant to then company Chairman George Mason.

Romney learned the business side of the automobile industry, and his exceptional skills as a negotiator propelled him to the upper echelons of the company. By 1953, he was an executive vice-president and a member of the board of directors. A few months after the merger that formed AMC, George Mason, company president, died and the board elected Mason's protégé, George Romney, to succeed him. As head of AMC, Romney emphasized the independents' need to avoid direct competition with the Big Three. The company developed the Rambler, and Romney coined the term "compact car" to promote it. Romney is also credited with coining the term "gas-guzzling dinosaur" to describe the Big Three's extravagant 1950s models. AMC recorded profits by 1958, and George Romney was rewarded for his remarkable achievement with name recognition. Still a devout Mormon, Romney used...