1960s: The imports arrive

1960s: The imports arrive

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1960-1969 Timeline of Events (click to enlarge)

At the end of the 1950s, there were six main car-producing countries in the world: the United States, England, France, Germany, Sweden and Italy. The top 10 import lines were VW, Renault, Opel, English Ford, Fiat, Triumph, Simca, Austin Healey, Mercedes and Volvo.


By the early 1960s, Japan entered the competition and swiftly grew to the world’s fifth-largest auto producer. Toyota introduced its first model—the Toyopet—to the U.S. market, while Honda initially sold only scooters and then built the Civic. Mazda and Datsun (later Nissan) also joined in. At the same time, U.S. automakers saw sales slip, while other OEMs folded, including Studebaker in 1963.


Sweeping national safety laws affected everything from car design to showroom floor sales tactics, and the first federal bills to set limits on vehicle emissions were introduced in 1965. California was the first locality to require “anti-smog equipment” on cars, and the nation eventually followed suit.


20 Group program launched

In 1968, NADA started its 20 Group program, and Frank McCarthy began what would be a 33-year stint at NADA, first as executive vice president, then as president. McCarthy would spearhead key programs, such as retirement and insurance for dealers and their employees, as well as management training for dealers and political action efforts.


NADA also spent a good deal of time in the late 1960s and 1970s testifying before Congress or federal agencies about various proposals. When proposals became law—such as the Truth in Lending law of 1968—or regulations, the NADA staff worked to explain the new laws and regulatory actions to dealers.


Other legislation that NADA favorably influenced during the 1960s included a bill for licensing mechanics, which NADA fended off with a proposal to set up its own licensing program instead, and a bill that protected dealers against federal tax liens on vehicles taken in trade or purchased outright.


And in a foreshadowing of recall difficulties that would plague the industry in coming decades, NADA testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly, encouraging clarity in manufacturer warranties, which helped alleviate dealer-customer friction over manufacturer defects.