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AUTOS: New Models

2 minute read

Wheeling out the 1956 Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler and Imperial passenger cars at a party for the press this week, Chrysler President Lester Lum (“Tex”) Colbert sounded a challenge to the other automakers. Said Colbert: Chrysler Corp., which captured 18.1% of the automobile market in the first seven months of 1955, is “out to get 20% of the automobile business, and more.”

The new cars, which will come out in mid-October, represent a $175 million face-lifting job on the 1955 models. Chief body change: high, straightaway lines on the rear fenders and bigger taillights. In addition, all lines will have a new four-door, hardtop model, pushbutton selectors on the dashboard for automatic transmissions, “lifeguard” door latches to prevent doors from popping open in accidents, and optional seat belts. Plymouth will have a new, higher-powered engine. Fanciest gadget in the line is a “Highway Hi-Fi,” a CBS record player that can be mounted just below the center of the instrument panel. Price: less than $100.

Ford Motor Co. kicked off its major 1956 sales pitch last week with a car safety forum in Detroit, announced that no-spring door latches, “deep-dish” steering wheels (many drivers have been impaled on the steering column) and padded rearview mirrors would be standard equipment on all models. Dashboard and visor cushion pads and front-seat belts will be optional but sold at cost ($25). Benson Ford invited the automobile industry to go along with Ford on a safety sales campaign. But not all the automakers were willing to emphasize the chances a car buyer takes when he ventures on the highway. General Motors, for one, has played down the dangerous features of driving, calls most safety features comfort or luxury items. G.M. did not even announce that it has been putting safety door latches on every car made since June until questioned about its safety plans two weeks ago.

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