- American company established to build modified British Austin Sevens in the U.S.
- It was too tiny for the times.
- The subject of many jokes which tarnished its image.
- Depression killed the market for this car, which was a supplement to the family sedan.
The American Austin Car Company was established in June 1929, in Butler, Pennsylvania, to build modified British Austin Sevens. The Great Depression was beginning to ravage the country when, in January 1930, the first American Austin made its debut at New York’s plush Hotel Shelton.
The Austin was an immediate sensation and within the week, more than 180,000 orders were received. Production began in May, but by the end of December 1930, only 8,558 cars found buyers. The image of a sensible economy car for ordinary citizens had been shattered by pranksters who subjected Austins to all kinds of mischief, and cartoonists who poked fun at the Austin in millions of newspapers and magazines. Conservative motorists had decided tiny cars were silly and they would not be seen in them. Another reason why sales failed to approach expectations was the Depression, which had killed the market for a supplement to the family sedan.
In 1931, only 1,279 Austins were produced. When the factory closed in the spring of 1932, liquidation of the firm’s assets appeared to be the only logical course of action. Roy S. Evans, a successful car dealer in Florida, made an offer to purchase the company and it was accepted. Austins began rolling off the production line again and Evans kept the factory running. In 1940 and 1941, the company produced the Jeep for the U.S. Army and in October of 1941, the last automobile was driven off the assembly line. Thereafter the company built two-wheeled trailers and these continued until the firm was taken over by American Rolling Mills in 1956.