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Imports in America, 1964

What was the state of the foreign car market during that time?


There were not many imported cars in the United States before World War II. That changed once servicemen and women brought back funky sports cars from the UK after the war. When a strange German brand established a sales network in the U.S., everything changed. What did the ensuing decade look like? Thanks to a clipping from the April 6, 1964, issue of Automotive News, we can get an idea.

1964 Volvos

By 1964, the American marketplace for imports was already in its second phase, as many European brands smelled Volkswagen’s success and tried to cash in, but many had already left when the 1960s dawned. What’s interesting is how many of the more novel brands continued to sell vehicles through 1963: DKW, NSU, and Skoda all were prolific brands, but their presence in the American market was never strong. Plus, there are several brands under Miscellaneous that aren’t specified – I imagine Panhard and Humber would be two.

Some thoughts pop into my head while looking at these numbers:

  • It’s been my impression British Fords were the most popular import pre-VW, and the numbers possibly bear this out, but the Ford’s dealer network was not enough to sustain the brand in good numbers.
  • Ditto Buick dealerships selling the Opel brand, though I suspect Opel’s portfolio in 1963 was not as strong as it was in the late 1950s. Of course, Opel would eventually have several good sellers well into the 1970s.
  • Renault was the biggest threat to Volkswagen in the 1950s but could not sustain itself.
  • Datsun had much better standing than Toyota, but Toyota’s fortunes would change within a few years.
  • Many of the good sellers from the UK continued to be sports cars. Note the strength of MG and Triumph in 1963.
  • Volvo’s performance was consistently impressive compared to other Europeans.
  • It is interesting to know Citroen’s presence continue into the 1970s considering the marque never sold many cars in the U.S. There are other brands that sold better yet disappeared, such as Hillman.
  • It seems that most of the brands that left the market by 1963 were German, including the Ford Taunus.
1964 Hillman Minx

Of course, the market would narrow to a few, while import sales would only increase market share, especially the Japanese brands. Take a gander at the above list and see what kind of inferences you can make. Enjoy!

Diego Rosenberg
Diego Rosenberg
Lead Writer Diego Rosenberg is a native of Wilmington, Delaware and Princeton, New Jersey, giving him plenty of exposure to the charms of Carlisle and Englishtown. Though his first love is Citroen, he fell for muscle cars after being seduced by 1950s finned flyers—in fact, he’s written two books on American muscle. But please don’t think there is a strong American bias because foreign weirdness is never far from his heart. With a penchant for underground music from the 1960-70s, Diego and his family reside in metropolitan Phoenix.


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