Station Wagons, Hatchbacks and Crossovers: Evolution of the Family Vehicle

Vintage Car 1960 Chevrolet Impala Bubble Top

Family vehicles have come a long way since the cars of the 50s, which included little-to-no safety features. These days, it’s actually quite rare to see a car that’s not family-friendly rolling through our city streets. Today’s automotive industry has been shaped by demands for bigger, safer and “greener” automobiles – vehicles like SUVs and crossovers that contain anywhere between 5 and 7 passenger seats, along with a wide range of safety airbags. Due to environmental issues and demands for better fuel economy, an entirely new auto power source was also born – that of the electric vehicle. If you plan to pursue a professional auto career, you might be interested in understanding the development of today’s family car – read on to find out more.

1990s: The Rise of Safety Features and Larger Vehicles

The 1990s was the decade that saw most of the major changes to family cars. Not only were new laws implemented that called for mandatory airbag systems to be placed into all vehicles, but this is where cars (once again) became bigger – most-likely to accommodate larger families. Vehicles of the 90s came in all sorts of shapes, sizes and brands – so as a car-buyer, you had a variety to choose from.

1980s: Style Rules the Auto Industry

You might remember the “auto-stars” from some of your favourite television classics including The Dukes of Hazzard’s “General Lee,” and the bevy of Ferrari’s that sped through the Miami Vice series. However, you don’t have to be a graduate of a mechanic college to notice that most of these iconic cars have a few traits in common – they are all fast, stylish, and appealing to the eyes – which was the major auto trend of the 80s. Needless to say, one was hard pressed to find a cool family-size vehicle during this decade!

1970s: A Taste for Ford

Though vehicle ownership became quite popular in the 60s, petrol shortages towards the end of the 70s meant that auto prices would escalate substantially. One of the most popular auto choices of the 70s was the iconic station wagon. These were very spacious and long, with space to fit entire families – though by today’s standards, driving around in one of these would not be recommended (especially for children) as seatbelts were present mainly for “looks” and rarely used, and proper child car-seats were nowhere to be found. By the end of the decade, Ford became one of the most popular auto manufacturers on the market due to the launch of its Escort and Cortina models which were in high demand.

1960s: A Decade of Change

Many major changes occurred in the 1960s – and though the average person might immediately think of the British Invasion, or the Civil Rights Movement – anyone who’s had auto technician training will likely also remember those economical car prices and low-cost gas rates. The average 60s vehicle cost approximately one-third of the typical American family’s annual income, and gas was a mere 32 cents a gallon! One iconic car that came out of this decade is the Mini – a tiny car that was admittedly, not very family-friendly.

1950s: The Post-War Era

This decade was very important to the United States, as automobile manufacturing became one of its most prosperous industries. The US had the largest auto industry in the world. Though the station wagons of the fifties were beautiful and fast – they were also unsafe.  Overall, 1950s vehicles were not very family-friendly; however, this decade did mark the birth of the automatic transmission, air conditioning, power steering, power brakes and the overhead-valve V8 engine – all features that forever changed the way cars were made.

What’s your favourite family-sized car?

Categories: ATC News, Cambridge
Tags: Auto career, auto technician training, Mechanic college

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