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Edgar Kaiser’s 1955 Testimony About the Kaiser Willys Merger

• CATEGORIES: Documents, Features

In the summer of 1955, Edgar Kaiser Sr. provided testimony to the United State Senate, Subcommitte on Antitrust and Monopoly, regarding the car industry, specifically the history of the  Kaiser Motors Company, it’s post war challenges and how/why it merged with Willys Overland.

There’s lots of interesting details in here, but my takeaway is that Kaiser didn’t believe Willys-Overland was properly leveraging the opportunities of the consumer market for four-wheel-drive vehicles. Moreover, Kaiser had a better dealer network for selling vehicles than Willys-Overland had been able to create.

So, some of this info is useful for understanding the mindset of Kaiser as to the challenges Kaiser Motors faced, before buying the assets of Willys-Overland, and the reasons the company purchased W-0. Given we will be covering the marketing aspect of this time period, it makes more sense why the new Kaiser Willys entity produced so much new literature for the sale of jeeps. Kaiser simply didn’t believe Willys-Overland execs were doing enough to promote jeeps and their capabilities to consumers.

I’ve taken snap shots of the entire testimony, which can also be found online here.

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6 Comments on “Edgar Kaiser’s 1955 Testimony About the Kaiser Willys Merger

  1. Dan B.

    Facinciating. My favorites are the anecdotes about the bottleneck in copper production due to the natural gas constraint, the foresight about the market for 4×4, and the comment about automatic transmissions.

    Thanks for posting.

  2. SE Pennsylvania Steve

    I wonder if Willys-Overland’s lack of long term corporate success was due to their failure to recognize the postwar emerging offroad/4-wheeling market and aimed their advertising almost solely towards the agriculture/work vehicle market. On the other hand, maybe they were doomed because they were primarily a utility vehicles manufacturer and after WW2 there was a large demand for more luxury vehicles. Kaiser seemed to be correcting this shortcoming.

  3. Mike

    Interesting reading in this document, such straight forward questions and answers, not the way it is in today’s world with testimony being presented in a “duck the issue” propaganda format. Even as a child, I had a great sense of admiration for Edgar Kaiser, lots of factual information.

  4. Michael From Dayton

    Thanks for posting this David—very interesting. I thought it was funny how the Chairman was baiting him about the unfair competition from GM and Ford. Also, Kaiser mentioned the stamping plant they had in Shadyside Ohio. Does anyone know any details about that? Seems like a weird place to put a stamping plant.

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