Wednesday 1st April 1970
American Motors Corp. (AMC), the company that first introduced the compact car in the 1950s, introduced the $1879 Gremlin, America’s first sub-compact car. AMC was the only major independent car company to survive into the 1970s. AMC’s success relied heavily on the vision of the company’s first President George Romney, who strongly believed that to compete with the Big Three his company must offer smaller, more fuel-efficient alternatives to their cars. The AMC Rambler, a compact car, accounted for nearly all of AMC’s profits through the 1950s, the era during which the company enjoyed its most substantial success. AMC’s fortune faded rapidly after Romney left the company in 1962, and by the end of the ‘ 60s, the company’s output had dropped to a dismal 250,000 sales per year. The release of the Gremlin in 1970 marked the company’s return to Romney’s vision. Designed to compete with the imported Volkswagens and Japanese sub-compacts, the Gremlin was essentially the AMC Hornet with its back end cut off. AMC President Roy Chapin attempted to re-create the vigorous personal campaign that Romney had used successfully to market the Rambler in the 50s. He appeared before the American public in advertisements to extol the virtues of the “first sub-compact” car. Unfortunately for AMC, the Gremlin was out on the market for only a short time before the Big Three released their own sub-compact models.