What killed the Met?
Remember how you felt the first time you saw a Nash Metropolitan? Well of course you do — it would be almost impossible not to. Tiny, quirky… the little car seemed like a joke, right? But that’s not how it was viewed when it first arrived on the market. When it debuted in March of 1954, it was well-received by the motoring press, which praised its design, ride, and fuel economy, as well as its styling. It was also well-received by the public, who flocked to Nash showrooms and bought up every Met in stock. After May of that same year, the little Met was also available in a Hudson version, becoming the first Hudson model to be created from a rebadged Nash.
By the end of the year, the newly formed American Motors realized it had a minor hit on its hands (the company never expected it to be a major hit) and asked Austin in the U.K. to increase production to meet demand. In mid-1956, the debut of a new two-tone “zig/zag” paint job and larger 1,500-cc engine sparked renewed interest. In fact, that year the little Nash was America’s number-two selling imported car!
So, what happened? How did a car that was doing so well become a failure? Its best sales year was 1959, when 14,959 were retailed in the U.S. But sales turned downward in 1960 and from there dropped like a stone. The final model year was 1962 and many (probably most) of the units sold were leftovers from 1961 or earlier.
American Motors had an unusual system for determining the Metropolitan’s model year. On whatever date the new models were announced each year, any new, unsold Mets still in stock at dealerships or in factory inventory automatically became the new year’s model. That’s why you sometimes find Metropolitans that are registered as, say “1961” models with a lower serial number than a 1959 or 1960 model, simply because that particular car sat on a dealer’s lot for a while, a couple of years or more in some cases. The situation does cause some confusion with collectors, but it was designed to avoid having to discount the prior year’s inventory. This policy was maintained even when fairly significant product changes took place, such as 1956 when the new two-tone color scheme and large engine debuted, and 1959 when the vent windows and opening trunk first appeared