DETROIT - In a move that startled and infuriated the industry, Chester Bowles, head of the Office of Price Administration, announced ceiling prices for all used cars, effective July 10.
They are based on prices prevailing in January 1944. The regulation, MPR 540, applies both to dealers and private individuals and provides a 25 percent markup for warranted vehicles and 4 percent depreciation on 'as-is' vehicles every six months.
The ceiling is expected to bring an immediate demand for used-car rationing from the Office of Defense Transportation in order keep a supply of used cars out of the hands of nonessential users.
It was the only 'extra' in the 75-year history of Automotive News. The industry was waiting for the used-car ceiling prices, but the Office of Price Administration was dragging its feet. Pete Wemhoff, Automotive News managing editor, and Bill Ullman, Washington correspondent, obtained an advance copy of the announcement, and Slocum decided to print the figures in a midweek extra.
It was the biggest scoop in the trade paper's 19-year history, and it came at an opportune time. Circulation was 12,000 at the beginning of World War II, but it had dropped during the next two years. That was no surprise; this is an auto industry publication, and there was no auto industry.
The used-car scoop stemmed the decline. Circulation at the end of the war was 8,748, down just 27 percent from 1941.
The war brought an important change on Page One. Instead of Automotive News/The Newspaper of the Industry, the flag became Automotive News/Including Ordnance & Aircraft News. That was the situation from Feb. 9, 1942, to Aug. 27, 1945. The Newspaper of the Industry tagline returned the following week.
Strangely, the paper's average of 40 to 50 pages per issue in 1943 and 1944 was higher than the 20 to 25 pages of prewar 1941.