- For other uses, see Chrysler (disambiguation).
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The Chrysler Group LLC is an American automobile manufacturer that existed independently from 1925–1998. Chrysler and its subsidiaries became part of the German-American based DaimlerChrysler AG after being purchased by Daimler-Benz in 1998. Before being taken over in 1998, Chrysler Corporation traded under the "C" symbol on the NYSE. The U.S. operations are generally referred to today as the "Chrysler Group", which includes Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep.
Starting with the relaunch of the Chrysler 300 in 2004 (for model-year 2005), Chrysler got favorable press for a strong comeback built around aggressively-styled models with powerful engines. Others in this string of high-profile models was the Dodge Magnum wagon, the Dodge Charger mid-sized sedan and the Dodge Caliber compact sedan. By mid-2006, Chrysler had lost some momentum, as evidenced by slowing sales and larger rebates across its model line. In February of 2007, the company announced 1,300 job cuts and rumors began of a merger with General Motors.
The company was formed by Walter Percy Chrysler on June 6, 1925, with the remaining assets of Maxwell Motor Company.
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 as well as 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 1934, 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. Plymouth was one of only a few marques that actually increased sales during the cash-strapped thirties. 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 stodgy post-war styling 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, Torsion-Aire was introduced. This was not air suspension, but an indirect-acting, torsion-spring suspension system which drastically reduced unsprung weight and shifted the car's center of gravity downward and rearward, resulting in both a smoother ride and significantly improved handling. However, a rush to production led to quality-control problems (mostly related to body fit and finish, resulting in major rust). This, coupled with a national recession, found the company again in recovery mode.
As the 1960s opened, the firm made both good and bad moves. In 1960, Chrysler introduced unibody (unitized body) construction, thus making the company first of the Big Three to offer it. Unibody was standard in all Chrysler products except the Imperial. This gave the body more rigidity and less rattles, and would soon become an industry standard. Its new compact line, the Plymouth 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 the 1960 Valiant and then 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 and the general neglect of the division. The same affliction plagued Plymouth as it also suffered when Dodge crept into Plymouth's price range. (This would eventually lead to the demise of Plymouth several decades down the road.) 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 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 turned out to be a major mistake for the company due to the major industrial relations problem which afflicted the British motor industry at the time. In addition, Rootes had archaic factories and an outdated product range. 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. Chrysler sold these assets to PSA Peugeot Citroën in 1978.
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; that same year marked the end of Barracuda production — 10 years to the day. 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 had no strong compact line to fall back on.
In desperation, the Chrysler Corporation on September 7, 1979 petitioned the United States government for US$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 passed the "Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979" (Public Law 96-185) on December 20, 1979 (signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on January 7, 1980), 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. 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. Chrysler acquired AMC in 1987, mostly for its Jeep brand although the failing Eagle Premier would be the basis for the Chrysler LH platform sedans. This bolstered the firm further, although Chrysler was still the weakest of the Big Three.
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.
In 2002, the company was the first to introduce the adjustable brake pedal.
Takeover by Daimler-Benz
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 was revealed: it had been planned from the beginning as a buyout of Chrysler by Daimler-Benz. As if on cue, Chrysler 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, Jürgen Schrempp, to take charge. The Plymouth brand was deleted 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 rear-drive Chrysler 300 featuring a new Hemi V8 became a solid hit. Financial performance began to improve somewhat, with Chrysler now providing a significant share of DaimlerChrysler profits due to restructuring efforts at the Mercedes Car Group. The long-standing partnership with Mitsubishi was dissolved as DaimlerChrysler divested its stake in the firm due to diving Mitsubishi profits and sales worldwide.
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 found in favor of DaimlerChrysler. However, another case (brought by other shareholders, on the same merit as the Kerkorian case) was settled in 2003 for $300 million. The Kerkorian case took over one year to decide.
According to the April 2007 issue of the German magazine Der Spiegel, CEO Dieter Zetsche wants to dismantle Chrysler and sell off the majority stake and at the same time keep Chrysler "dependent" upon Mercedes-Benz after the sale. 
On April 4, 2007 Dieter Zetsche said that the company was negotiating the sale of Chrysler, something which was rumored for weeks before the announcement. One day after this Kirk Kerkorian placed a 4.5 billion dollar bid for Chrysler. On April 12, 2007 Magna International of Canada announced it was searching for partners to place a bid for Chrysler. That bid was taken up by cerberus on the promise of streamlining operations. unforntunately that streamlining came from cutting car development essentialy starving chrysler of new product. this does not include the dodge journey because that was developed mostly under diamler. as the economy took a nosedive chrysler was left starved for product as old models sales dwindled. Thing got so bad that Chrysler had to ask for a total of 14 Billion in loans From the United States Treasury. eventually though the United States Government Forced Chrysler into Bankruptcy. pre bankruptcy Chrysler entered an informal alliance With Fiat S.p.a. Who is now the controlling entity of chrysler group llc. many new and refreshed models are comeing within the next 5 years as a result. with all current cars being replaced or refreshed by 2012.
On May 14, 2007 DaimlerChrysler AG announced that it will sell 80.1% of its stake in the Chrysler Group to Cerberus Capital Management for $7.4 Billion. After the transaction completes, Chrysler Group will officially become Chrysler Holding LLC. DaimlerChrysler AG plans to change its name to Daimler AG pending shareholder approval sometime this fall.
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 1925. The logo was revived for the Chrysler division in the mid-1990s, and was surrounded by a pair of silver wings after the Daimler-Benz merger in 1998.
In 1963, the company had switched over to a star design which became known as the Pentastar (right) 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, Chrysler, Imperial and Airtemp (Chrysler's HVAC division). By 1963 there were only two auto 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-CEO 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, from 1963 into the mid-1970s. 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, cars in countries with right-hand traffic countries had the Pentastar on the right fender, and cars in countries with left-hand traffic countries had the Pentastar on the left fender. Chrysler-Plymouth dealership signs used the Pentastar on a blue background, while Dodge used red. The practice was revived in the 1990s. Beginning in 1981, the Pentastar replaced individual logos that had been used by Plymouth, Dodge and Chrysler and had in some cases identified individual models, such as the Chrysler New Yorker in uses such as hood ornaments and decklid badges.
Dodge began phasing out the Pentastar starting with the 1993 Dodge Intrepid and Dodge Spirit, which used a ram's-head logo. The Chrysler brand began using a medallion logo starting with the 1995 Chrysler Cirrus and Chrysler Sebring. Both these logos were standard by 1996, and starting in 1996, Plymouth used a sailboat logo on all its models. Especially until 2000, the Pentastar continued to appear in ads for Chrysler Corporation service. It was used on special editions of the 1996-2000 Plymouth Voyager. It was used on the fenders of the 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee (and 1993 Grand Wagoneer) and all the 1996-2000 Chrysler minivans on the fenders, steering wheel, and keys. It was used on the radio of many Chrysler Corporation vehicles during this time.
Among the few remaining traces of this motif is a large, star-shaped window at DaimlerChrysler's American headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, which was built in 1996. Many dealerships still have signage and other traces still visually apparent to the Pentastar, where a five-Pentastar logo was introduced as the logo of the "Five Star Dealer" service rank after the Pentastar was phased out on the vehicles.
Today, the Pentastar still makes a few relatively inconspicuous appearances on Chrysler Group cars and trucks in markings on window glass and on individual components and molded-plastic assemblies. As the Mopar parts division has also now changed its logo (to use a stylised 'M'), the Pentastar's days appear to be numbered.
Cars: 300 series · 300M · Airflow · Airstream · Cirrus · Concorde · Conquest · Cordoba · E-Class · Fifth Avenue · Imperial · Imperial Parade Phaeton · Laser · LeBaron · LeBaron Coupe · LeBaron GTS · LHS · Newport · New Yorker · Prowler · Royal · Saratoga · TC by Maserati · Town and Country · Turbine Car · Windsor · Aspen · Pacifica · PT Cruiser · Crossfire
Airflite · Akino · California Cruiser · Falcon · Imperial Concept · Java · ME Four-Twelve · Norseman · Pronto Cruizer · Nassau · Thunderbolt · Newport LeBaron · Firepower · Dart albo Super Gilda · Cordoba de Oro · Cirrus Concept · Thunderbolt (1993) · 300M Concept · Portofino · Chronos · Millenium · Atlantic · Crossfire Concept · Pacifica Concept · Patriot · K-310 · C-200 · ecoVoyager Concept · Diablo Concept · Town and Country EV Prototype · 200C Concept
|Walter Percy Chrysler||Corporate website||A division of Fiat S.p.A|
- ↑ 'Only part of Chrysler to be sold', AFP, 14 April 2007
- ↑ Associated Press: Cerberus to Pay $7.4B for Chrysler Stake
- "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.
- Chrysler Official brand site
- Free Chrysler VIN decoder
- History @ the Walter P. Chrysler Museum
- Design gallery page at Chrysler.com
Community Sites & Forums
- Chrysler Reviews and History
- Chrysler Weblog
- Chrysler's Infamous Hemi
- Stock Mopar
- TopSpeed: Chrysler
News & References
- Chrysler celebrating 20 years of modern concept vehicles
- Chrysler celebrating 20 years of modern concept vehicles Gallery
- Gallery of classic graphic design featuring Chrysler automobiles.
- Report: Chrysler to build new axle factory with ZF
- Chrysler sues Getrag over U.S.-built dual-clutch trannies
- BREAKING: GM and Chrysler talking about merger
- Chrysler confirms merger talks
- Breaking News: Chrysler to Lay Off 25% of its Salaried Workforce or 4,300 Jobs