The movie “Tucker: The Man and His Dreams” is a 1988 biographical film directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The main star, Jeff Bridges, undertakes a role centering on following an idea process to develop and fix flaws while adjusting to realities and regulations to reach the final product. The movie shows that it takes a good process from start to finish to successfully launch even good ideas off the ground. This report entails a detailed analysis of Mr. Tucker’s entrepreneurial ability and decisions in order to reveal the causes of his ultimate failure.
The film tells the story of a well-known Preston Tucker in his attempt to create and subsequently market the 1948 Tucker Sedan. With Joan Allen, Martin Landau, Elias Koteas, Frederic Forrest, and Christian Slater in supporting roles, the film recounts Mr. Tucker’s struggles with entrepreneurship amidst scandals between the “Big Three automobile manufacturers” at that time and accusations of stock frauds from both the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) (Tine, 1988).
According to the movie, a small-town engineer, Preston Tucker, is interested in building cars since childhood. This entrepreneurial movie kicks off during World War II with Mr. Tucker having designed an armored car for the military amidst making money by building gun turrets for military airplanes in his hometown. His dream to build the car of his dreams, the Tucker Torpedo, begins to come to life as the war dies down. His Tucker Torpedo would feature revolutionary safety designs ranging from disc brakes, pop-out windshields, seat belts and adjustable headlights—all of which were yet to be featured on road vehicles (Tine, 1988).
In the movie, Mr. Tucker first comes out as an ordinary man whose dream is to dominate the car industry spearheaded by giant automobile companies at the time. Mr. Tucker’s entrepreneurial venture seems bound to succeed because of its unique nature. However, as the movie continues, his failure and difficulties are evident. His major mistake is launching an idea prematurely because he attempts to produce a revolutionary car many years ahead of its time (Higgins & Striegel, 2003).
At the onset of World War II, Mr. Tucker moved to California to start his own company that would design and build the ultimate combat car for the army. This car featured an armored and narrow wheelbase with a machine gun turret on top. Unfortunately, with a speed that exceeds 115 mph, the U.S. Army rejected the care because they deemed it too fast for combat. However, the U.S. Navy ordered the use of the car’s gun turrets in B-17 and B-29 bombers. As the war ended, the orders for the gun turrets stopped, and this inspired Mr. Tucker to begin working on his new car designs.
From the events that follow, it is clear that Preston Tucker used the rejection by the army to use his car as motivation to do more. It also brought about the realization that he could focus more on civilians’ needs for speed on the road if the military were not going to buy his car. As the movie proceeds, Mr. Tucker launches “the car of tomorrow”, which is met with enthusiasm by the public.
Mr. Tucker’s first design was released in December 1946. “The design, which was done by George Lawson, was published in Science Illustrated magazine” (Tine, 1988). He used the media to promote the concept of having tomorrow’s car today. Even though the publishing and exposure got the public excited about the Tucker Torpedo, the board of directors at the Tucker Company doubted his ability to overcome all technical and financial obstacles that the company was facing at the time. They also doubted the possibility of using a publicity campaign to reinforce the Tucker Torpedo’s launch amidst such difficulties (Higgins & Striegel, 2003).
Mr. Tucker’s business operations were always supported by a qualified team, and many times, the best talent in the market. The company hired renowned stylists and engineers to diversify and perfect the design of his revolutionary car. For example, to finish the prototype design and get constructions underway, he hired a famed stylist Alex Tremulis who completed the work in exactly six days. With the new design sketch, he ran more full-page advertisements with proposed innovative features. To finalize the design, Mr. Tucker hired a New York-based design firm, J. Gordon Lippincott, to create the alternate body of the car. For this particular body, the horizontal and front end taillight bar designs were reserved for the final car.
Mr. Tucker also perfected his entrepreneurial niche by diversifying his dream team. He used the best in the industry, such as Secondo Campini, a well-known designer and engineer from Italy. Tucker also used the Italian’s influence to pursue a U.S. Air Force contract that would allow his business to build more cars in the future, and possibly earn the military’s admiration as their producer for more products.
His organizational structure was expansive and included several arms of business handling different aspects. They include the Tucker Export Corporation in New York, established to manage global sales. Mr. Tucker also had other distributorships in Southern America and Africa set up to facilitate a market expansion to the regions.
The most notable aspect of Tucker’s idea of a new car for tomorrow was the respectable team of individuals he had assembled to assist him in designing and building the car. The team was set up of worthy and reputed individuals with an ability to make the idea a reality. So strong was the selected team that Tucker was almost certain of the success of the project. He held high regard towards the innovative power and ability of the team that he overlooked delicate matters like monetary provisions. In addition to a well-renown stylist to do the prototype, the best design firm in New York, a talented engineer from Italy, the team also enjoyed the services of Robert Pierce, a man whose financial management abilities Mr. Tucker relied on heavily. However, Pierce, the man who was set to oversee the cooperation’s financial issues, was also oblivious of the high costs needed to make the car (Higgins & Striegel, 2003).
Mr. Tucker started with a couple of dollars and then secured loans from a lease he had gotten. The demise of Tucker’s dream was as a result of greedy automobile companies that saw their undoing in the launch of the new invention. One of their strategies to finish Mr. Tucker was to use their influence to run a smear campaign against Mr. Tucker by accusing him of stock fraud. He is, however, acquitted on all accounts. There also was the issue of corrupt politicians who siphoned money from big automobile companies with the assurance of market control. This made it difficult for a new automobile producer to penetrate the market or even launch their idea. However, the biggest problem for Mr. Tucker was poor management of funds, and the inability to do an accurate costing for the project (Higgins & Striegel, 2003).
After the World War ended in 1945, Tucker began his automotive corporation with a few thousand dollars. Unfortunately, for him, the U.S. Army had already acquired the services of large military factories. This rendered his venture almost futile at the start. The army then set up The War Assets Administration (WAA) to oversee the liquidations of all military installations. With this fortunate turn of events, Mr. Tucker won the lease as the only bidder for the plant. He agreed to sign the lease that required him to pay $1 million by October 1, 1946, for two years in rent and $2.4 million a year thereafter. Due to the huge demands financial demands arising from the lease, Tucker soon found it impossible to meet the payments. The WAA then agreed to extend his rent payment date to March 1, 1947. Unfortunately, Tucker once again failed to make the required payments forcing the WAA to give him an ultimatum date of July 1, 1947, after insisting that the Tucker Corporation have at least $15 million in an escrow account for the purposes of renewing the lease (Tine, 1988).
To raise money for lease, Tucker decided to get a bank loan. The banks were, however, unwilling to oblige to his request because for a loan of such an amount the banks required to have control of the corporation. Tucker decided instead to sell his car dealerships in order to come up with the money. These financial problems resurfaced later in the spring of 1948.
Instead of raising the expected $20 million required to cater for all the company’s financial needs, the initial public offering of the stock only gathered $15 million. This meant that the Tucker Corporation did not have enough money to cater for steel and car parts. In addition, the company also required at least $2.4 million to cover its 1948 lease payments. Mr. Tucker then came up with the idea for customers to pre-pay for all their car accessories. Despite the fact that this served as a source of income for a while, the idea still needed much more resources than the company could come up with, consequently, falling into bankruptcy.
The 1988 movie on Tucker draws the picture of a man who falls victim to a conspiracy plot orchestrated by the automobile company and SEC. This, together with other issues that Mr. Tucker did not address efficiently, is the beginning of his downfall. Tucker’s firm lacked proper financial foothold, and he could not get financing from banks. His business’ financial decisions also made it difficult for the firm to attract investors. The lack of financial aid was a constant crisis that plagued his project. In addition, Mr. Tucker failed in selling and marketing his company and ideas, which would have enabled him to work with stable dealerships and boost his chances of business survival. Tucker eventually failed in his quest to make his own car. It is, however, worth noting that his ideas were later actualized as evident from car designs released many years later by other companies. Therefore, to some degree, he succeeded by igniting the hope to build a new and fast car that would improve and change vehicular land travel.
Higgins, S., & Striegel, C. (2003). Movies for business: Big-screen lessons incorporate vision, entrepreneurship, logistics, and ethics. Spokane, Wash: New Media Ventures.
Tine, R. (1988). Tucker: the man and his dream: A novel. New York: Pocket Books.