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Checker Motors Corporation

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Defunct
Checker Motors Corporation is a Kalamazoo, Michigan based automotive subcontractor, that was once the manufacturer of the famed Checker automobile, the iconic American taxi cab. Checker was established by Morris Markin in 1922 through a merger of Commonwealth Motors and Markin Automobile Body.

Commercial vehicles

Checker is best known for its taxicab, on which it built its business and reputation. In its early years, Markin not only produced the vehicles but also ran Checker Cab, a taxi company which was in direct competition with John D. Hertz, owner of the Yellow Cab of taxi cabs.

Checker designs changed infrequently; Markin held on to certain design features long after they were discontinued by major automobile manufacturers. For example, open front fenders were retained by Markin into the 1940s because it saved operators the expense of repairing minor dings and dents. Taxi cab models were designated by a letter series; significant modifications in models (new major systems, etc.) were designated by a number following the model letter.

Checker's commercial vehicles were also usually given letter designations instead of model names. An exception to this rule was the Checker Aerobus [1], an extended version of its cars, built on a stretch wheelbase allowing for each row of seats to have its own doors. The Aerobus was often associated with airports and train stations, although vacation resorts also used Aerobuses for transporting guests.

Consumer vehicles

From 1922 until 1959 Checker's production vehicles were built almost exclusively for the commercial livery (taxi) business, although the company would build vehicles for personal use if requested. Checker entered the consumer vehicle market when it saw its production of Checker Taxis decline.

Beginning in 1960, Checker introduced the Superba, its first model specifically built for the consumer market. Joining the Superba in 1962 was the Marathon, which took the place of the Superba Special.

Checker's cars were lightly marketed using campaigns that centered on their durability and unchanging style. Checker also promoted their vehicles as 200,000-mile cars at a time when most US automakers shied away from mileage promises.

With the Marathon entirely outmoded, and lacking the funds to develop a more modern vehicle, Checker Motors produced its final vehicle in 1982 after members of the Markin family decided to end automobile production rather than meet labor demands.

In 1989, Checker Motors and Checker Holding Company was involved in a reverse acquisition with International Controls (Great Dane Trailers), and the company later changed its name to CRA Holdings. The company was reorganized in 1995 into three wholly-owned subsidiaries: Yellow Cab (owns and leases taxi cabs in Chicago), Chicago Autowerks (taxi-cab repair and other services) and CMC Kalamazoo. Other subsidiaries include American Country Insurance Company, a provider of property and casualty insurance, Great Dane, (the largest manufacturer of truck trailers, containers and chassis), and South Charleston Stamping & Manufacturing Company. The company was renamed as Great Dane Limited Partnership, and was acquired by Chicago based CC Industries.

Checker Motors today operates as a subsidiary of CC Industries as an automotive subcontractor, primarily for General Motors, building mostly body components.

Also see: Checker Taxi

References

  • "The Checker Cab: In Memorium," Quintessences: the Quality of Having It (New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 1983), Page 94.

External links

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