December 1, 1965
"The automobile industry denied today charges that cars stressed power and styling at the expense of safety." - The New York Times
Ralph Nader came to national prominence through his 1965 book blowing open car manufacturers’ resistance to incorporating safety features in their cars.
Nader begins his meticulously researched bestseller, Unsafe at Any Speed, bluntly: “For over half a century the automobile has brought death, injury and the most inestimable sorrow and deprivation to millions of people.”
In that first chapter he bludgeoned General Motors’ Corvair, a car plagued by quality issues and design flaws that put drivers in unnecessary peril. GM struck back by tailing Nader and hunting for information that would help smear and intimidate him. Undeterred, Nader continued interviewing whistle-blowers and sharing information with media.
The public learned about Nader's devastating findings—ironically in part due to GM’s harassment. His work exposed General Motors for its dubious safety practices and is largely credited for spurring the creation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a government body tasked with reducing driver fatalities and injuries.
Read about Ralph Nader's battle with GM
Ralph Nader's investigation into the auto industry was difficult because mainstream media was not covering it and car manufacturers carefully guarded their secrets.