Malaise era

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Malaise Era refers to the period of American-made[according to whom?] vehicles in model years 1972 to 1983[according to whom?] when changing government regulations and customer preferences initiated a focus on fuel efficiency and emissions controls.[citation needed] American automakers had a hard time competing with the smaller, more efficient import cars.[citation needed]

This time corresponds with significantly increased oversight of the automotive industry with regard to fuel economy and exhaust emissions by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The resulting vehicles were significantly less powerful and slower due to new emissions restrictions being applied to older, heavier vehicle designs which also often included aggressively detuning the existing large engine designs to meet regulations.[citation needed]


The phrase "Malaise era" was defined by automotive journalist and photographer Murilee Martin early in his tenure at Jalopnik.[citation needed] He expanded upon his definition in a lengthy article for the website The Truth About Cars in 2011.[citation needed]

The term is in reference to the commonly-used name of a televised speech given in 1979 by then-President Jimmy Carter, also known as the "Crisis of Confidence" speech.[citation needed]


Before the 1973 oil crisis, the most popular cars were large, heavy, and powerful. In 1971, the standard engine for a very common model of car (the Chevrolet Caprice) was a 400-cubic inch (6.5 liter) V8, which achieved no more than 15 highway miles per gallon, and even less with any of the other optional, more powerful engines.[1]

With skyrocketing oil and gas prices (the price of oil in the US had more than quadrupled)[2] due to the OPEC oil embargo in late 1973, the much smaller, far more efficient Japanese and European cars dramatically increased in popularity. American automakers' attempts at compensating were relatively poorly received, as the offered vehicles, including its homegrown compacts such as Chevrolet Nova, Ford Maverick and subcompacts such as Ford Pinto, Chevrolet Vega, were still much heavier and less efficient.

With the 1979 energy crisis, oil and gas prices again increased significantly, doubling over a 12-month period, and there was a further shift in customer preference to smaller, more efficient vehicles. American automakers began introducing a series of smaller, less powerful models to more directly compete against particularly the Japanese offerings.[3]


There has been some disagreement over when exactly the "Malaise era" ended. Some feel that the era ended in 1983, with the advent of computer controlled vehicles, and turbos beginning to take a foothold on Japanese vehicles.[4]



  1. ^ "1971 Chevrolet (USA) Caprice Hardtop Sedan on Automobile Catalog". Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  2. ^ "The price of oil – in context". CBC News. Archived from the original on June 9, 2007. Retrieved May 29, 2007.
  3. ^ "1979 oil shock meant recession for U.S., depression for autos / 100 Events That Made the Industry". Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  4. ^ "These Two Ads Show Why The Malaise Era Was Never Necessary". Retrieved 2018-02-28.