Chrysler Before World War II
One of the company’s early successes was the original six-cylinder Chrysler, which was initially introduced as the Maxwell Chrysler in 1924. It was affordably priced, well-engineered, and was a big seller, particularly with entry-level drivers. The name Maxwell was dropped altogether in 1925. Over the next few years, Chrysler continued to build on its success by making affordable four- and six-cylinder vehicles, some of which were released as Plymouth and DeSoto vehicles.
One early innovative vehicle introduced by the company was the Airflow, which was released in the mid-1930s. The Airflow was an aerodynamic vehicle powered by an inline-8 and mounted in front. It featured stylish design innovations like swooping lines and a prominent grille. It wasn’t a success with the public, but it came to typify aerodynamic designs that emerged in the 1940s and 1950s.
Chrysler responded to the Great Depression by building more affordable vehicles under the Dodge and Plymouth banners. However, it was during the postwar era that Chrysler really came into its own, eventually emerging as one of the Big Three automakers in the U.S.
Chrysler After World War II
In 1951, Chrysler introduced its iconic “Hemi” V-8 engine. With 180 horsepower, the Hemi was a big step up from previous 135 hp V-8s the company had produced. It ignited a competition among automakers to build cars with more horsepower. This Hemi was also instrumental in helping to launch the production of American-made muscle cars during the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s.
Chrysler preserved its brand reputation on the U.S. market by farming out the cheaper cars to Plymouth, Dodge, and DeSoto. However, marquee models like the Town & Country and the 300C were released under the Chrysler name and sold well with the public, despite having higher price tags.
During the early 1960s, Chrysler dropped the DeSoto brand. In the 1970s, like all American automakers, Chrysler was forced to shuffle the deck during the Middle East oil embargo. However, Chrysler failed to adapt quickly enough to changing conditions in the auto industry at the time. By decade's end, the company was in serious trouble, eventually seeking a government bailout to avoid veering into bankruptcy.
In the early 1980s, Chrysler successfully reinvented itself through the production of the popular K-car. It also launched the first modern minivan to be sold in the U.S, defining a new segment that ostensibly replaced the station wagon as the family hauler of choice. By the end of the 1980s, Chrysler had repaid its debt to the government and succeeded in acquiring American Motors Corporation, which was the parent company of Jeep. Chrysler also entered into a partnership with Mitsubishi around this time.
In 1998, Chrysler merged with German automaker Daimler-Benz to form DaimlerChrysler. That merger produced the popular 300 full-size sedan. However, the merger only lasted until 2007 when Daimler sold the Chrysler Corporation to private equity firm Cerberus.
Repeating history, Chrysler was again forced to seek a government bailout following the financial collapse of 2008. Recently, the company was acquired by Fiat. Currently, Chrysler is busy reinventing itself yet again.
Current models of Chrysler include midsize sedans like the Chrysler 200 and the bigger, more luxurious Chrysler 300. The Chrysler Town & Country was originally released in 1941 before being discontinued in 1988. However, it was re-released as a minivan in 1990 and has remained in continuous production ever since. The company only recently ceased production of its innovative retro-looking PT Cruiser and the sporty Crossfire convertible and coupe, which shared its underpinnings with the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class sports car.
Chrysler Products and Technologies
The Chrysler brand was always associated with quality, innovative design, and advanced engineering. Although Chrysler has had to adapt to a competitive, changing marketplace, it's begun creating products consumers crave again following its Fiat-led resurgence. The Town & Country remains a very popular minivan and the Chrysler 300 is one of the most well-regarded American full-size luxury sedans. Currently, auto industry watchers are awaiting the first new vehicles to emerge from Chrysler’s partnership with Fiat, which should soon include smaller, more efficient cars and a next-generation Chrysler 200 sedan based on Italian architecture.