About a year before he died in 1995, former American Motors chief George Romney was invited to speak at the American Motors Owners Association national meet. Though 87 years old at the time, Romney was not only lucid but his perceptions of the auto industry both at the time of his speech and when he was active in the industry, were as sharp as his memory. At the end of his remarks, Romney, who served as Michigan’s governor after he left AMC, addressed political, cultural and social issues facing the United States, so the speech wasn’t completely automotive related, but for the most part it’s an interesting first hand perspective of someone who was both an auto industry insider and a maverick willing to follow a different drummer. Romney has been closely associated with compact cars because he championed the Rambler and coined the phrase “gas guzzling dinosaurs”, referring to the big American land yachts of the 1950s and 1960s. He modestly gives credit for the Rambler, though, to George Mason, who had run Chrysler, merged Kelvinator with Nash and later merged Nash with Hudson to form AMC.
Romney refers to four automotive eras, that of Henry Ford, that of American affluence and the dominance of the Big 3, the Japanese era, and then today’s global era. Interestingly, he predicted the importance of Korea and China when he said that “Asian countries other than Japan” will be players on the global automotive scene.