Abstract: Car Design under a Marketing Paradigm: The German Automobile Industry and the Challenges of the Energy Price Crisis in the 1970s

Ingo Köhler


The German car industry was badly shaken by the global energy crisis of 1973-1974. But the downturn triggered by the oil shortages did not appear as a sudden break; rather, it was embedded in a longer-term shift from a seller's to a buyer's market, a transition already foreshadowed in the 1960s by changing consumer preferences. The paper will get involved in "fashion" in two ways: First, it focuses on how the changes in consumer behavior forced new product and design concepts in the 1960s and 1970s. Second, it discusses the problems of the German car industry in bringing its business practices into line with new market conditions. The paper outlines the thesis that marketing management as a "fashionable" consumer-driven business practice became a significant prerequisite for dealing with the challenges. In a situation of businessmen's uncertainty concerning the changes of their business and socio-political environment, marketing management provided badly needed decision guidance. The paper explores the basic tools of marketing management: the strengthening of market research, consumer-driven product planning, and the transformation of organizational structures.