Here at the ICTA we like to dismiss the myths of the past about Checker. There are many myths, but one that has popped up several times recently on social media is the idea that Checker stopped make automobiles because they could not afford to conduct federally mandated “crash testing” and were challenged by safety requirements.
This myth has been perpetuated by various parties: guides at The Gilmore Museum, the other Checker Club and even writer David Lyons author of the book “The Automobile History of Kalamazoo”. Bottom line, its not true, nor is it documented in any archive documentation or Checker executive statements.
Its well documented that Checker exited the market, after three unsuccessful “new Checker” projects were executed. Checker engineer Sab Hori, Sab Hori was quoted in Automobile Quarterly: “We were at a crossroads whether to continue to offer the Taxi or discontinue and go into contract work (Third Party Stamping business). To stay in the taxi market required a large expenditure of money. At the time, the whole automobile industry was in a downturn. We didn’t feel it was worth the expenditure of several million dollars. There was still a lot of uncertainty. It would be a tremendous gamble.”
The smarter bet was for Checker to invest its capital into the third party stamping business rather than invest in the new proposed “Galva II” Checker. 1983 was a recession year and a very tough year for all auto manufacturers.
It’s clear from Hori’s comments that crash testing was not the issue. That said, it’s important to understand that Checker had an active “crash test” program in place to meet standards. An optimal program economically, Checker’s design permitted the use of older worn out taxicabs to be tested. There was no need to smash up new Checkers. Check out this Youtube link to Checker crash testing, note the Checker being tested is a former Minneapolis Yellow Cab own by CMC.
The other argument regarding Checkers safety and its ability is meet Federal Standards is also suspect. Check out this article found in a 1967 Automotive, Checker’s position on safety was quite clear.
Checker to Meet Safety Standards, Markin Says
Automotive News, 6/12/67
Kalamazoo, Mich. Checker Motors Corp, will be able to meet Federal safety standards with its 1968 models. According to David R. Markin, sales vice-president.
In a bulletin to Checker dealers and field representatives, Markin said his firm would meet the standards “in a manner similar to the other automobile manufactures”. “We can’t say the new standards won’t cause us some expense and inconvenience, considering the short notice given the industry,” Markin said.
“However in many ways, Checker is in a better position than some of its bigger colleagues. We’ve been making an essentially strong, functionally safe and sturdy automobile for two generations. Some of the safety regulations have been Checker features for years”.
“Our plan has built its reputation on safety and dependability-even when we had to buck fads and fashions to do it.”
Markin concluded, “It has always been Checker’s contention that safety and dependability, ease of operation and comfort are more important considerations than having an obsoleting style change every year”.
The only major safety regulation that Checker had to comply with beyond 1968, was the Federal bumper mandates of 1973 and 1974. Post 1982, the only regulation that would have been a major hurtle for Checker would have been the airbag requirements of 1998, some 18 years after Checker stopped production of automobiles. Checker was always compliant with safety standards and had the resources to execute crash tests.
So when any so called expert tells you that Checker stopped making cars due to safety requirements and crash testing…..tell them they’re wrong. Set-em’ straight Checker was always compliant.