Whether he actually said it or not, one of Henry Ford’s most famous quotes is, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” When he was the president of Ford, Lee Iacocca and his staff played off that legend, finding equine names for new models such as the Mustang, the Bronco, and even the Pinto. The Mustang became the subject of the documentary “A Faster Horse.”
Whether Old Henry said it or not, the philosophy permeated the entire industry for the next 50 years. The attitude of the Big Three in Detroit was, more or less, “The public be damned. We’ll build them and they’ll buy them.” That worked fine until the mid-’60s when the imports started coming ashore in large volumes. Better quality cars and trucks coming out of Japan and European luxury brought the Detroit giants to their knees and forced them to try something new. That’s when they actually began paying attention to consumers.
Unfortunately, as it is with all manufacturers, the lessons learned are never passed on to the next generation. As the old guard retires, the new executives often go down the same stupid paths, forever trapped in a “Groundhog Day” scenario and doomed to repeat their forebears’ mistakes.
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