By establishing Subaru of America, Harvey H. Lamm founded the only car importing company in the US that was publicly traded. With Lamm as its chief, the company ranked among the auto companies that were best managed financially.
Harvey H. Lamm – Bringing Subaru to America
Back in 1967, Harvey Lamm and his childhood pal Malcom Bricklin struck a deal with Fuji Heavy Industries of Japan. The little-known car manufacturer was responsible for one of the world’s smallest cars, the Subaru 360.
In those days, hardly anyone had heard of Toyota, and Honda had not yet entered North America. Using an initial investment of $75,000, the friends formed Subaru of America (SoA) and became the car’s exclusive importers to America.
SoA started small, with the initial shipment comprising only three cars. But within the first year of operations, the company had brought in 332 units. The mini car was priced at $1,297 – $500 less than a Volkswagen Beetle.
Lamm’s company sold around 6,000 units before problems struck.
Quality proved to be a crucial issue, as with most Japanese cars of the era. A Consumer Reports issue gave the Subaru 360 a Not Acceptable rating.
In the early-1970s, Lamm was stuck with a million dollars worth of mini cars he could no longer sell. His partner Bricklin eventually sold his controlling share of the company, retaining only an 8% stake.
In 1975, Lamm introduced America to the 4-wheel drive, as well as the all-wheel drive, via the Subaru wagon. This led to a new wave of car designing among competitors. In time, Lamm and Bricklin were bought out by Fuji Heavy Industries. But Lamm stayed on until 1990. Today, SoA has around 600 dealers across the US and has turned out to be a success.
The Harvey H. Lamm Quick Bio
Full name: Harvey H. Lamm
Company: Subaru of America
Industry: Automotive and Aerospace
Key success traits: Boldness to pioneer; willingness to start small; hanging in long enough to produce a success.
The company Lamm pioneered proved to be profitable after all. By 2000, SoA hit 172,216 car sales. The figure breaks down into 14,351 each month or 20 per hour, 24 7 throughout the year.