History of American Motors Corporation (1954-1987)
American Motors Corporation was formed from the merger of Nash and Hudson in 1954, and ended with the merger of AMC into Chrysler in 1987. Most people, if they think of American Motors at all, remember it as a failure that couldn't compete effectively with the Big 3 and the imports. But it is perhaps more accurate to think of AMC as a scrappy survivor: the last American Independent, the company that outlived Packard, Studebaker, Kaiser, Auburn, Cord, Dusenberg, and all the rest.
AMC went through many changes of fortune and focus in its 33 years. After a very rocky start that saw the old Nash and Hudson brands fade away, the company found its niche as a specialty maker of small, practical Ramblers, and sales quadrupled in just a few years.
The early 60's were AMC's glory years, when Rambler twice took third place in model year sales and the whole line earned Motor Trend's "Car of the Year" award. But the company soon lost its focus, and sales tumbled. The Rambler name was phased out, replaced by "American Motors" as the brand, and later "AMC".
In the late 60's and early 70's AMC had a brief but memorable flirtation with high performance and racing that produced collectible classics like the Javelin, AMX, SC/Rambler, and Machine and brought younger customers into the showrooms.
The company enjoyed another brief heyday in the economic recessions of the 70's, again because of its reputation for practicality. AMC's two most unusual cars of that decade, the Gremlin and Pacer, have become pop-culture symbols of the era of arena rock and disco.
AMC ultimately couldn't cope with the double whammy of foreign competition and federal safety and environmental regulations, and it had to evolve yet again to survive. In its final years, AMC was primarily a manufacturer of non-AMC vehicles: cars designed by Renault, which bought a controlling interest in the company, and the Jeep line, acquired from Kaiser in 1970. Finally, Renault sold out to Chrysler in 1987, and the Last Independent was history.
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