In 1965, a book was released that changed the American automobile industry forever. Written by Ralph Nader, “Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile” was the title. The subject material was a dramatic look at the way the auto industry viewed its responsibility to build safe automobiles.
More than just about the Corvair
As Oyster Bay BMW of Oyster Bay, NY explains Nader’s book is often tied to an extremely critical review of the Chevrolet Corvair, a rear-engine, air-cooled compact car made in the 1960s. While there was a lot of focus on the Corvair, the book was really an indictment of the entire industry. For example, Nader included chapters on lack of devices such as seat belts, the pollution concerns from internal combustion engines, and the lack in many cars of any sort of safety testing at all.
Worst of all, the book explored the concept that automotive executives did not seem terribly concerned about most of the dangerous issues involved with their automotive products at all. The last chapter of “Unsafe,” in particular, discussed the difficult battle that safety advocates faced, and how if nothing changed, that eventually one out of two Americans would could end up be injured or killed in a car accident.
Maybe not so “Good for General Motors”
The book wasn’t just the opinions of a curmudgeon. It was a fact-filled masterpiece that vaulted Nader into a legal career of questioning the motives behind the policy and practice of the entire automotive industry. It would be safe to say that “Unsafe” dispelled the once famous comment by a General Motors executive that “What was good for General Motors was good for America.”
After “Unsafe” was released, a great deal of change occurred. It was painful but as the decades since show, the auto industry actually should be happy that Nader published his book when he did. By pushing for safety items that all of the carmakers were forced to adopt, the automotive manufacturers potentially saved millions of dollars in future lawsuits. Here’s a fact to consider: In 1980, 23 people out of 100,000 died annually in car crashes. Today, thanks to hundreds of federal safety regulations, the rate is less than 10 per 100,000.
But Nader is still concerned
“The auto industry wants to turn the car into an entertainment center,” Nader recently commented. He is especially concerned that all the multitasking that occurs in a car can be distracting. He insists the car manufacturers should make sure that their accessories and gadgets don’t interfere with the basic concept of safe driving despite what the driving public seems to want.
Earthgarage – Greener Car. Fatter Wallet.