AUTOS: More & Cheaper Cars

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Ford brought out its 1959 Edsel this week with a face lifting, but it carefully redesigned the whole selling pitch for its one-year-old youngster. Instead of competing with medium-priced cars, as originally planned, Edsel is now aimed at the low-priced buyer. Ford switched Edsel's price range from last year's $2,300-$3,489 to $2,320-$2,807 by dropping two of last year's higher-priced models (the Citation and the Pacer), thus bringing Edsel down into the price range of the top series of the Big Three's lowest-priced cars. Also slashed: accessories prices, e.g., $175 for automatic transmission v. last year's $215. In line with the trend to fewer models (see Too Many Models), Ford also dropped six other Edsel models.

Studebaker-Packard's new small car, the Lark, also made pricing news. Its price was set lower than the list prices of the Big Three and in some cases below American Motors' hot-selling Rambler. The Lark begins at $1,756 for a two-door, six-cylinder model, ranges to $2,362 for an eight-cylinder station wagon. Its four-door six carries a list price of $1,821 v. $1,918 for the cheapest four-door Rambler, but most of its two-door models run slightly above Rambler's two-door Rambler American series.

U.S. car production last week reached 69,599 units v. 45,387 the week before, and prospects are for a production of 75,000 this week. Production was still held back by wildcat strikes at General Motors, but other carmakers hiked schedules. Chrysler hopes to increase production 15% this week. Ford's Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln division plans a 40% hike, and Studebaker-Packard scheduled a 50% rise; with Ramblers running off the line at an alltime peak, American Motors raised schedules by 10%.

Cars were selling well. Buick announced that it has received more than 100,000 new car orders from its dealers, almost two-thirds of which have already been sold. Ford announced that its dealers sold 27,000 new Fords on introduction day alone, and Pontiac reported sales and confirmed orders of more than 20,500 during the car's first three days on the market. Buoyed by orders for 72,400 Ramblers so far this year, American Motors made plans to turn out 100,000 Ramblers by the end of December, almost double the total turned out in the same period last year.