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Automotive Air Conditioning History

  • The 1940 Packard was the first car to offer factory-installed air-conditioning.
  • By 1969, more than half of all new cars sold were equipped with A/C.
  • Some brands affixed window decals to promote their air-conditioned automobiles.
  • For cars not equipped with factory air, dealer-installed, under-dash units were popular.
  • In a 1971 front-page story, the New York Times implicated air-conditioning in the death of the convertible, postulating that: “In the age of air-conditioning, real air has lost its value.”
  • After the freon used in A/C units was blamed for depleting the ozone layer, automakers were required to switch from R12 to the less harmful R134a refrigerant by 1996.
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control allows for separate temperature settings for driver and passenger; some cars have additional zones for rear-seat passengers.
  • Volkswagen calls its manual air-conditioning system “Climatic;” automatic A/C is “Climatronic.”
  • Today, more than 99 percent of all new cars are air-conditioned.
  • There’s no A/C in base versions of the Chevrolet Aveo; Honda Civic; Hyundai Accent and Elantra; Jeep Wrangler; Kia Forte and Rio; Mazda 3; Mitsubishi Lancer; Nissan Versa; and Toyota Tacoma.
  • Testing by Consumer Reports found that using a car’s air-conditioner resulted in a more than 3-mpg loss at highway speeds. Driving with the windows open had no measurable effect on fuel economy.

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