Oct. 17 is the 40th anniversary of the first Arab oil embargo, which launched the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and fundamentally changed the auto industry. Some of the changes really kicked in after the so-called second oil crisis of 1979, but it all started 40 years ago. This list is not comprehensive, but it indicates the magnitude of the changes Oct. 17, 1973, brought.
10 ways the 1973 oil embargo changed the industry
In 1972, all import brands combined held just a 13 percent share of the U.S. market. That shot up to a then-record 15.8 percent in 1975. They never looked back. It wasn't just the Japanese; German brands also got a boost when their small but powerful engines got a second look from shoppers.
Washington insisted that automakers meet corporate average fuel economy standards but took no actions that would have encouraged people to buy the cars that automakers had to build to meet those CAFE standards. Some automakers had to put heavy incentives on small cars to meet the mandate; others just paid the fines.
Hasty, ill-planned and poorly executed forays into making small cars proved devastating to some brands' reputations. Think Cadillac Cimarron and Lincoln Versailles.
A desire to add a fuel-efficient car to the showroom led to a flurry of courtships. Examples include Ford and Mazda; GM and Suzuki, Isuzu, Toyota, Fiat and Daewoo; Chrysler and Mitsubishi; Daimler and Smart.
The much-maligned limits meant the U.S. industry would never trumpet German-style Autobahn performance.
As automakers made cars smaller to meet CAFE mandates, consumers searching for more space gravitated to trucks that had less-stringent CAFE targets to hit. It's the rule of unintended consequences: The oil embargo gave birth to the Hummer.
As carmakers initially struggled to meet fuel economy targets, horsepower and performance went out the window.
The quest for better fuel economy, lower fuel bills and so-called energy independence brought die-sel and ethanol, and alternative powertrains, such as hybrids and electric vehicles.
When consumers in all markets think gasoline is expensive, then the same fuel-saving technologies appeal everywhere. Alan Mulally's One Ford would never have worked without OPEC.
The original round of downsizing brought a passel of lousy cars. But the push to trim weight and boost fuel economy brought a wave of technology innovations that continues, including turbocharging, lightweight materials, front-wheel drive, eight-speed transmissions, direct fuel injection and many others. And as innovation flourished, the shape of vehicles changed. The behemoth station wagon disappeared, replaced by the minivan.
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