The Chrysler Corporation is a United States-based automobile manufacturer. Chrysler and its subsidaries are now part of the German based Daimler-Chrysler AG after being purchased by Daimler-Benz in 1998.
In 1928 Chrysler founded the Plymouth brand at the low end, the DeSoto brand at the low-medium end and purchased the Dodge Brothers automobile company; all of this was in order to set up a full range of brands similar to that of the General Motors corporation. This process reached its logical conclusion in 1955, when the Imperial was made a brand of its own and Chrysler marketed a GM-like five-brand lineup. Well before then, though, Chrysler Corporation had become noted both for its engineering features and its periodic financial crises. By the end of the 1930s, the DeSoto and Dodge divisions would flip-flop spots in the corporate pecking order making the lineup Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler, and Imperial.
In the 1930s, the company introduced the Chrysler Airflow, featuring an advanced streamlined body which was among the first to be designed according to scientific aerodynamic principles. Chrysler also created the industry's first wind tunnel to develop them. Unfortunately, it was not well accepted by the public, and it was the humble Dodge and Plymouth divisions, which had not been given an Airflow model, which pulled the firm through the Depression years with its conventional but quite popular bodystyles. It was during this decade that the company created a formal parts division under the Mopar (Motor Parts) brand, with the result that Chrysler products are still often called Mopars.
The unsuccessful Airflow had a chilling effect on Chrysler styling and marketing, which remained determinedly unadventurous through the 1940s and into the 1950s, with the single exception of the installation of hidden headlights on the very brief production run of the 1942 DeSotos. Engineering advances continued however, and in 1951 the firm introduced the first of a long and famous series of Hemi V8s. In 1955, things brightened after the questionable designs of the 1953 and 1954 Chryslers with the introduction of Virgil Exner's successful Forward Look style. With these cars, Chrysler seized the industry's design leadership and produced several genuine classics, most notably the 1956 Plymouth Fury and the 1957 Chrysler 300C. With the inauguration of the second generation Forward Look cars for 1957, Torshion-Aire was introduced. This was a front stabilizer bar which gave the vehicles better and safer steering characteristics. However, a rush to production led to quality-control problems, and coupled with a national recession, soon the company was once again in financial recovery mode.
As the 1960s opened, the firm made both good and bad moves. In 1960, Chrysler introduced unibody construction in its cars, the first to offer it of the Big Three. This gave the body more rigidity and less rattles and would soon become an industry standard. Its new compact line, the Valiant, opened strong and continued to gain market share for well over a decade. Valiant was introduced as a division of its own but would become adopted by Plymouth in 1961. Alternators would replace generators in all of the 1961 models as standard equipment, an industry first. The DeSoto marque was axed after the introduction of the 1961 models due in part to the broad array of the Dodge lines being marketed. Plymouth would also suffer in the long run for Dodge creeping into Plymouth's price range. An ill-advised downsizing of the full-size Dodge and Plymouth lines in 1962 hurt sales and profitability for several years.
In April 1964, the Plymouth Barracuda, which was technically a Valiant sub-series, was introduced. The huge glass rear window gave the impression of a hatchback with its "love-it-or-hate-it" styling. Beating the Ford Mustang to the market by almost two weeks, it could be argued that the Barracuda was really the first pony car. However, unlike the Mustang, it did not rob sales of other division's models. In spite of better build quality than the Mustang, the Mustang still outsold the Barracuda 10-to-1 between April 1964 and August 1965.
In 1966, Chrysler expanded into Europe, by taking over the British Rootes Group, and Simca of France to form Chrysler Europe. The former purchase unfortunately turned out to be a major mistake for the company, inheriting a major industrial relations problem which afflicted the British motor industry at the time, coupled to the archaic factories and outdated product range that Rootes manufactured. Chrysler retired all of the Rootes marques in favor of the Chrysler name. The Simca division was more successful, but in the end the various problems were overwhelming and the firm gained little from these ventures.
More successfully, at this same time the company helped create the muscle car market in the U.S., first by producing a street version of its Hemi racing engine and then by introducing a legendary string of affordable but high-performance vehicles such as the Plymouth GTX, Plymouth Road Runner, and Dodge Charger. The racing success of several of these models on the NASCAR circuit burnished the company's reputation for engineering.
The 1970s brought both success and crisis. The aging but stalwart compacts saw a rush of sales as demand for smaller cars crested after the first gas crisis of 1973. However, an expensive investment in an all-new full-size lineup went largely to waste as the new 1974 vehicles appeared almost precisely as gasoline prices reached a peak and large-car sales collapsed. At mid-decade, the company scored a conspicuous success with its first entry in the personal luxury car market, the Chrysler Cordoba. However, the introduction of the Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare twins in 1976 did not repeat the success of the discontinued Valiant/Dodge Dart line, and the company had delayed in producing an entry in the now all-important subcompact market. Problems were mutliplying abroad as well, as Chrysler Europe essentially collapsed in 1977. It was offloaded to Peugeot the following year, ironically just after having helped design the new Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni, on which the increasingly-desperate company was pinning its hopes. Shortly thereafter, Chrysler Australia, which was now producing a rebadged Japanese Mitsubishi Galant, was sold to Mitsubishi Motors. The subcompact Horizon was just beginning to reach the U.S. market when the second gas crisis struck, devastating sales of Chrysler's larger cars and trucks, and the company now had no strong compact line to fall back on.
In desperation, the Chrysler Corporation on September 7, 1979 petitioned the United States government for $1 billion in loan guarantees to avoid bankruptcy. At the same time, Lee Iacocca, a former Ford executive, was brought in to take the position of CEO, and proved a capable public spokesman for the firm. A somewhat reluctant Congress authorized the guarantees, prodded by Chrysler workers and dealers in every congressional district who feared the loss of their livelihoods. With such help and a few innovative cars (such as the K-car platform), especially the invention of the minivan concept, a market where Chrysler brands are still important, Chrysler avoided bankruptcy and slowly fought its way back up. By the early 1980s, the loans were being repaid at a brisk pace and new models based on the K-car platform were selling well. A joint venture with Mitsubishi called Diamond Star Motors strengthened the company's hand in the small-car market. The acquisition of AMC by Chrysler in 1987, mostly for its Jeep brand, bolstered the firm further, although Chrysler was still the weakest of the Big Three American auto makers.
In the early 1990s, Chrysler made its first tentative steps back into Europe, setting up car production in Austria, and beginning right-hand drive manufacture of certain Jeep models in a 1993 return to the UK market. The continuing popularity of Jeep, bold new models for the domestic market such as the Dodge Ram pickup, Dodge Viper sports car, and Plymouth Prowler hot rod, and new "cab forward" front wheel drive sedans put the company in a strong position as the decade waned.
Chrysler merged in 1998 with Daimler-Benz to form DaimlerChrysler AG. This was initially touted as a merger of equals, but within a couple of years the truth had been leaked; it was effectively a buyout of Chrysler by Daimler-Benz, with the latter very much the dominant partner. As if on cue, the company went into another of its financial tailspins soon after the merger, greatly depressing the stock price of the merged firm and causing serious alarm at headquarters in Germany, which sent new CEO Jurgen Schremp to take charge. The Plymouth brand was phased out in 2001 and plans for cost-cutting by sharing of platforms and components began. The strongly Mercedes-influenced Chrysler Crossfire was one of the first results of this program. A return to rear wheel drive was announced, and in 2004, a new Chrysler 300 using this technology and a new Hemi V8 appeared and gave early indications of being a solid hit. Financial performance began to improve somewhat, but the long-standing partnership with Mitsubishi appeared to be unraveling as DaimlerChrysler declared its intent to divest its stake in that firm.
On April 7, 2005, a conclusion was announced by U.S. District Judge Joseph Farnan Jr. presiding over a bench trial in Wilmington, Delaware between Kirk Kerkorian and DaimlerChrysler AG regarding allegations that Jürgen Schrempp of Daimler Benz AG, prior to the 1998 merger, lied and manipulated the Security Exchange Commission and Chrysler Corporation's shareholders (the largest of which was Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corporation) by touting the 1998 merger as a merger of equals, and not an outright acquisition. The judge was found to be in favor of DaimlerChrysler's position by rejecting Kerkorian's case. However, another case (based on the same merit) was settled in 2003 for $300 million to other shareholders. The Kerkorian case called for many more causes of action that undoubtably needed to be carefully dealt with and took over one year to decide on.
The design shown at the top of the page is an adaptation of the original winged logo which Chrysler used on its cars at its inception in 1924. The logo was revived for the Chrysler divisions in the mid-1990s but again was slowly phased-out after the Daimler "merger".
In 1963, the company had switched over to a star design which became known as the Pentastar and was extensively used on dealer signage, advertisements, and promotional brochures. Contrary to popular belief, it was not designed to symbolize the five divisions of the corporation at the time, Plymouth, Dodge, De Soto, Chrysler, and Imperial. By 1963 there were two car divisions in the United States, Chrysler-Plymouth and Dodge. As well there were over a dozen other divisions in the Chrysler Corporation family and management were after a symbol that all divisions could use.
Then Chrysler head, Lynn Townsend, was looking for a symbol that could be used by all divisions, on packaging, stationery, signage, advertising, etc. He wanted something that would be universally recognizable as "Chrysler" to anyone who saw it, from any perspective, from any culture. Chrysler's trademark symbol, the pentastar, was simple and easily recognizable from any perspective, even in motion on revolving signs. The symbol also facilitated Chrysler's expansion in the international market by removing the need to translate any text that is commonly used on logos.
Thus all divisions of Chrysler adopted the pentastar. All car brands (Valiant, Plymouth, Dodge, Chrysler, Imperial, Hillman, Humber, Sunbeam, Singer, Simca), truck brands (Fargo, DeSoto, Dodge, Commer, Karrier), and all the other Chrysler divisions (air conditioning systems, heating, industrial engines, marine engines, outboard motors, boats, transmissions, four wheel drive systems, powdered metal products, adhesives, chemical products, plastics, electronics, tanks, missiles) and services (leasing and finance) were identified by the pentastar. It united the firm's various products and services in the public's eye as no other auto firm has done.
The Pentastar appeared consistently but inconspicuously on the lower passenger-side fender of all Chrysler products, including foreign brands, until the early 1980s. At that point it was adapted to appear in such forms as trunk emblems and hood ornaments, replacing other designs that had been used by Plymouth, Dodge and Chrysler and had in some cases identfied individual models, such as the Chrysler New Yorker. It was placed on the passenger-side fender so it could be viewed by passers-by, a subtle method of getting the symbol ingrained in the public's mind. A nameplate has to be read, but a symbol is recognizable even to the illiterate. Thus North American and French cars had the Pentastar on the right fender and British on the left.
Currently the only remaining traces of this motif are a large, star-shaped window at DaimlerChrysler's American headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and Pentastar Aviation, a former DaimlerChrysler subsidiary which reverted to its original name after being purchased, ironically, by a member of the Ford family. It is also likely that many dealerships still have signage and other traces still visually apparent to the Pentastar. Today, glass on Chrysler Group cars and trucks still have the Pentastar on them, however, its days appear to be numbered.
- Chrysler 180/2 Litre/Centura
- Chrysler 300 letter series (1955 - 1965)
- Chrysler 300M (1998 - 2004)
- Chrysler 300C (2005 - Current)
- Chrysler 300 (1979, 2005 - Current)
- Chrysler Airflow (1934 - 1937)
- Chrysler Airstream
- Chrysler Aspen (To be released for the 2007 model year)
- Chrysler Avenger (1976 - 1978, rebadged Hillman Avenger)
- Chrysler Cirrus (1995 - 2000)
- Chrysler Concorde (1993 - 2004)
- Chrysler Conquest (1987 - 1989, rebadged Mitsubishi Starion)
- Chrysler Cordoba (1975 - 1983)
- Chrysler Crossfire (2003 - Current)
- Chrysler Daytona (1984 - 1993, only sold in Canada)
- Chrysler Dynasty (1988 - 1993, only sold in Canada)
- Chrysler Fifth Avenue (1979 - 1993)
- Chrysler Horizon (1977 - 1979, only sold in Europe)
- Chrysler Imperial (1926 - 1954, 1990 - 1993)
- Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton (1952, only 3 were built)
- Chrysler Intrepid (1993 - 2004, only sold in Canada)
- Chrysler Laser (1984 - 1986)
- Chrysler LeBaron (1977 - 1995)
- Chrysler LHS (1995 - 2003)
- Chrysler Newport
- Chrysler Neon (1994 - 2005, international version of the Dodge Neon)
- Chrysler New Yorker (1946 - 1996)
- Chrysler Pacifica (2003 - Current)
- Chrysler Prowler (2001 - 2002)
- Chrysler PT Cruiser (2001 - Current)
- Chrysler Royal
- Chrysler Saratoga (1990 - 1995, only sold in Europe)
- Chrysler Sebring (1995 - Current)
- Chrysler Sigma (Rebadged Mitsubishi Galant, only sold in Australia)
- Chrysler Stratus (1995 - Current, only sold in Canada and Europe)
- Chrysler TC (1989 - 1991)
- Chrysler Town and Country (1941 - 1950, 1965 - 1988, 1990 - Current)
- Chrysler Turbine Car (Experimental gas turbine-powered car)
- Chrysler Valiant (Only sold in Australia)
- Chrysler Vision (1993 - 1997, only sold in Europe)
- Chrysler Voyager (2000 - 2003)
- Chrysler Windsor
- Chrysler ME Four-Twelve
- Chrysler Falcon
- Chrysler Firepower
- Chrysler Norseman (Lost when the Andrea Doria sank in 1956)
Merger with Daimler-Benz
In 1998 Chrysler and Daimler-Benz officially merged to form German-American autogiant Daimler-Chrysler. Despite this venture being officially titled a merger most experts argue that it was really a buy-out by Daimler-Benz; justifying the statement that Chryler was bought by Daimler-Chrysler. This claim came forth when Chrysler and Dodge switched back ot rear-wheal-drive and many new models extensively used Mercedes-Benz parts. Further suspisions were founded when Daimler-Chryler introduced the Dodge Sprinter, a rebadged Mercedes-Benz.
- Chrysler Official brand site
- Chrysler Group corporate Official site
- DaimlerChrysler Official site
- History @ the Walter P. Chrysler Museum
- Chrysler Airflow article
- Allpar.com ~ The web's best Mopar enthusiast site, devoted to all Chrysler products new and old
- An account of Chrysler's adventures in the European market
- Site for Simca/Chrysler France products
- Design gallery page at Chrysler.com
- Birth of the Pentastar
- End of the Pentastar
"Why Chrysler Changed Its Corporate Identity". Ward's Quarterly, Powers & Company, Inc. Detroit, Michigan, Winter, 1965.
Chrysler's foray into the Japanese market - its challenges and successes - is documented in Terry Sanders' film The Japan Project: Made in America.