Car sales money factor: Endangered species? SUVs squeezing out affordable, entry-level cars

“I could make a credible argument that the first affordable/entry-level car was the Oldsmobile Curved Dash, introduced in 1901. The basic one-cylinder Olds wasn’t necessarily cheap ($650 at a time when the average annual wage was $450), but compared with $1,500 for a Packard it was a bargain. But the Olds was undersized and underpowered, and went out of production after 1904. During the 1910s, the low-price market was flooded with cyclecars – slim, cheap, four-wheel cars powered by motorcycle engines. But most were poorly built and rattled to pieces on our still-poor roads. Cyclecars were also done in by what was really the quintessential early affordable car – the Ford Model T. Though the T was somewhat pricey ($850) when introduced in the fall of 1908, the assembly line’s efficiencies plunged the price down to $260 for a basic two-seat T by the early 1920s. By 1930, the Big Three is firmly established and the budget-car market is dominated by Ford, Chevrolet and Plymouth.

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