Back in the 1950s, when Europe was still rebuilding after World War Two, Ford Motor Company and General Motors decided to show the world what a cost-no-object car was like in the American idiom. First Ford introduced the 1956 Continental Mark II, hand assembled down to the component level, that was said to lose $1,000 on each and every $10,000 Mark II sold. Adjusting for inflation, that loss is the equivalent about $8,600 in 2013 money. A year later, GM started selling the Motorama influenced Eldorado Brougham, at an even steeper $13,074. Motor City lore has it that not only was the Eldo Brougham thousands more expensive than the Mark II, its loses exceeded those of the Mark II by thousands of dollars as well. Now the Sanford C. Bernstein brokerage has looked at how much money various European automakers have lost on particular cars since 1997.
In the endless [s]race to the bottom[/s] to be first in overall sales in America, Audi will be adding more models to their U.S. lineup, hoping to increase overall volume while copying Mercedes-Benz and BMW’s strategy of creating unwanted and useless niche models to pawn off on vulgarians with [s]adequate credit to qualify for leasing[/s] money.
[Note: A significantly expanded and updated version of this article can be found here]
That air presented the greatest obstacle to automotive speed and economy was understood intuitively, if not scientifically since the dawn of the automobile. Putting it into practice was quite another story. Engineers, racers and entrepreneurs were lured by the potential for the profound gains aerodynamics offered. The efforts to do so yielded some of the more remarkable cars ever made, even if they challenged the aesthetic assumptions of their times. We’ve finally arrived at the place where a highly aerodynamic car like the Prius is mainstream. But getting there was not without turbulence.