Ford launched a major advertising campaign for its Lifeguard Design package on 1956 Ford and Mercury cars. A dish-shaped steering wheel, clustered knobs and instruments, and stronger door latches were standard equipment. At additional cost, motorists could order lap belts, a padded dashboard, padded sun visors, and a shatter-resistant rear view mirror. Sales were brisk at first but soon were outpaced by the 1956 Chevrolet, which sported new styling and optional lap belts, shoulder harnesses, and padded dashboard.
Robert McNamara, general manager of the Ford Division, believed that manufacturers had a moral obligation to study safety issues, develop protective safety hardware, and educate consumers. He also thought that life protection could sell cars. The National Safety Forum, a two-day conference in 1955 with crash tests and announcements of new safety features on the 1956 cars, was Fords attempt to raise the profile of auto safety research and intrigue the public.