History

History of Chrysler: Walter P. to Stellantis and everything in-between

Walter P. Chrysler stands next to his1924 Chrysler Six, the first car bearing the Chrysler name.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

It's been nearly 100 years since Walter P. Chrysler formed the Chrysler Corporation. In that time, the company has been merged, spilt, sold, and reborn in a variety of forms, but its roots still remain in Michigan where it is known as one of the Big Three automakers alongside General Motors and Ford.

Let's take a look back at the history of the company from its highest highs to its lowest lows, and everything in between.

The beginning

1925 Chrysler B70

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Walter Chrysler formed his namesake automotive company in 1925, when his employer, Maxwell Motor Company, was reorganized. A little over a year earlier, Chrysler's first production car, the Chrysler 70 (above), was released and featured several forward-looking innovations. The car came with a high-compression engine that had full-pressure lubrication, an oil filter, and a carburetor air filter.

An early pioneer

Early on, Chrysler pioneered several other automotive features that would eventually take over the entire industry. Four-wheel hydraulic brakes, rubber engine mounts, and more were all Chrysler's inventions. The company also developed a ridged rim for its car's wheels, which was designed to prevent a deflated tire from flying off the rim at speed. It was eventually picked up by the entire global automotive industry.

Introducing ... Plymouth

Plymouth Hotel Algonquin 1935 taxi cab

Photo by Martin Forstenzer/Getty Images

In 1928, Chrysler Corporation introduced the Plymouth brand, which was intended to be a lower-priced alternative. Early Plymouth models were rebadged Chrysler cars with small four-cylinder engines. In the photo above, a Plymouth taxicab is parked in front of the Hotel Algonquin in New York City in 1935.

DeSoto was also unveiled at this time as a mid-range model line for the group. Not long after, Chrysler snapped up the Dodge Brothers auto and truck company.

Hello, Mopar

In a stroke of genius that remains a large part of the automotive world today, Chrysler coined the MoPar brand in the 1930s. As a combination of the words "motor parts," the name is still used to describe vehicles and parts in the Chrysler-Dodge world today.

Imperial, Valiant, DeSoto

By the mid-1950s, Chrysler had spun up more nameplates to join its empire. In 1955, Imperial became a brand of its own after a run as the range-topping Chrysler model, and in 1960 the Valiant brand name came to be. In 1961, Chrysler discontinued the DeSoto line.

Chrysler in space

Saturn 1B Kennedy apollo picture

Photo by MPI/Getty Images

The automaker had a hand in the space program, too. In the late 1950s, NASA contracted Chrysler to build the first booster stage of the Saturn I and Saturn IB vehicles. The Saturn 1B is pictured above on January 22, 1968 launching Apollo 5 from Cape Kennedy, Florida, to complete the first flight test of an unmanned lunar module.

The company built the pieces for the Apollo Program at the Michoud Assembly Facility in East New Orleans, which was one of the largest manufacturing facilities on Earth at the time.

The future is now

1963 Plymouth Valiant

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Chrysler's forward thinking operations continued into the 1960s, when the automaker became the only of Detroit's Big Three to use a unibody design in its vehicles. Today, most passenger vehicles are unibody designs, but it was a novel idea at the time. Around the same time, the Valiant brand was moved back as a subsidiary of the Plymouth brand (a 1963 Plymouth Valiant is shown above), and became the first production car with an alternator.

Ooh, Barracuda

1965 Plymouth Barracuda

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

In 1964, the Plymouth Barracuda was introduced (shown above as a 1965 model), almost two weeks before the unveiling of the Ford Mustang. Despite being first, the 'Cuda was outsold by the Mustang ten-to-one in its first year on the market. Chrysler had also set its sights on Europe by this time, and took a majority stake in the British Rootes Group in 1964. The venture was short-lived, however, as financial difficulties in the British company forced Chrysler to sell to PSA Peugeot Citroen in 1978.

Stiff competition, disastrous results

The 1970s proved to be a difficult time for Chrysler, as it was for all American car companies. Cheaper, smaller Japanese and European cars flooded the markets, as the oil crisis drove prices through the roof and made large, heavy cars almost immediately obsolete. Later in the decade, a rush to push new models to market led to massive warranty and repair costs for Chrysler, as its Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare were hurried to market with poor construction and an even worse design.

Mr. Iacocca

1984 Plymouth Voyager

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

In 1978, Lee Iacocca joined Chrysler as CEO after having been fired from Ford. Because of its missteps with the Aspen and Volare models, Chrysler was hemorrhaging cash at the time. Iacocca started retooling the automaker from scratch, which included many layoffs, the sale of European assets to Peugeot, and the creation of the project that would ultimately lead to the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager (1984 model shown above). The project was driven by former Ford executives after Henry Ford II denied its forward progress under his watch.

Iacocca realized that the company would not be able to survive without a significant influx of cash to turn its fortunes around. In September 1979, he asked Congress for a $1.5 billion loan, which led to the Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979. The military later purchased thousands of Dodge trucks from the company, which helped it recover and avoid bankruptcy.

The K-Car and the minivan

1982 Chrysler LeBaron

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

In 1981, Chrysler released the first K-Car platform model - another rejected Ford project. The platform would go on to form the basis of several models throughout the decade (1982 Chrysler LeBaron shown above). In 1983, the first minivan was introduced, the success of which helped Chrysler repay the federal government the same year.

American Motors Corporation

The late 1980s were a consequential time for Chrysler. In 1987, the automaker was the subject of an investigation over its practice of disconnecting odometers during test drives before being shipped to dealers. The company settled out of court, but suffered a massive public relation hit. The same year, Iacocca led the acquisition of American Motors Corporation (AMC), which brought Jeep into the Chrysler fold for the first time. The Eagle brand was also created at this time.

Chrysler and Fiat Part I

In 1988, Chrysler and Fiat reached an agreement for the American automaker to be the exclusive distributed or Alfa Romeo in the United States, which lasted until Alfas were phased out in 1995. The early 1990s also saw Chrysler making a return to the streets of Europe, first with select Jeep models and then others.

DaimlerChrysler Motors Company

In 1998, Chrysler formed a 50-50 partnership with Daimler-Benz, and the automaker was renamed DaimlerChrysler Motors Company. Though it was supposed to be an even merger, Daimler-Benz was in the driver's seat. Plymouth was phased out in 2001, and the remaining auto brands went on to share platforms and technologies in vehicles that are still seen today. The marriage came to an end in 2007, when DaimlerChrysler AG sold the majority of its stake in Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management. That sale led to a shuffle in management and a new logo.

Economic downturn

A Jeep sits in front of the empty showroom at Premier Chrysler June 8, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The dealership is 1 of the 789 Chrysler dealerships nationwide that are scheduled to close tomorrow. Today the Supreme Court delayed Chrysler\ufffds sale of most of its assets to a group led by Italy\ufffds Fiat. (

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The financial crisis of 2008 cut deep into Chrysler's operations and stability. Late in that year, the company announced a 25 percent reduction in its salaried and contract workforce. Sales fell drastically for all automakers at that time, but Chrysler was particularly vulnerable after having been passed around through mergers and acquisitions over the years. In December 2008, President George W. Bush announced a rescue loan for the auto industry, which included Chrysler.

As part of a reorganization, Chrysler LLC and Fiat announced plans to form a global alliance. The agreement gave Fiat a large stake in Chrysler and led to several months of restructuring. By mid-2009, Fiat had taken a majority stake in Chrysler, and by 2014, the company we all know today had taken shape. In December of that year, Chrysler Group LLC's name was officially changed to FCA US LLC, or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Stellantis

New Stellantis company logo revealed ahead of Groupe PSA-Fiat Chrysler merger

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The next chapter of Chrysler is already written. The company will become part of Stellantis, a megacorporation that brings together the holdings of FCA with those of PSA Groupe. The deal closes in January 2021.

Trending News

 
 

The Jeep Wrangler Islander is now aviallable to order.

Photo courtesy of Stellantis

Jeep is bringing back its popular Islander special edition SUV for the 2021 model year, but with a twist. This year, the Wrangler and Renegade are getting the treatment. This is the first time the Jeep Renegade has been available with this special edition treatment.

"Our Jeep enthusiasts expect legendary Jeep 4x4 capability, and they also embrace the Jeep brand's fun 'go anywhere, do anything' adventure lifestyle," said Jim Morrison, Vice President, Jeep Brand North America. "With Surf Blue accent stitching, Islander-embroidered front seats and available white three-piece hardtop on the Wrangler, you can't help but think summer and the beach life when you see these new Islander special editions."

2021 The Jeep Renegade Islander beings the spirit of coastal communities to the off-roading family hauler.Photo courtesy of Stellantis

2021

The Wrangler Islander has been gone for 11 years after being first introduced as a special edition in 1988. The new model is based on the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Sport S with either two- or four-doors. It comes standard with the following features and equipment:

  • Jeep Command-Trac 4x4 part-time, two-speed transfer case with a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio
  • 17-inch Rubicon aluminum wheels in Silver Finish with all-terrain tires
  • Rubicon Rock Rails
  • Uconnect 4 with a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Dual-zone temperature control
  • Exterior details include a Tiki Bob hood decal; interior details include a Ceramic White mid-bolster and black cloth seats with an embroidered Islander logo and Surf Blue accent stitching
  • Available white three-piece hardtop
  • Optional Islander Plus Package by Mopar adds front/rear grab handles, cargo tub liner, solid sunbonnet top and Tiki Bob soft spare-tire cover

The Jeep Wrangler Islander is available in Billet Silver, Black, Chief, Granite Crystal, Bright White, Firecracker Red, Hellayella, Sarge Green, Snazzberry and Sting-Gray.

Each Islander model receives unique interior appointments.Photo courtesy of Stellantis

The Renegade Islander is based on the 2021 Jeep Renegade Latitude. Its list of standard and available features and equipment includes:

  • Available Jeep Active Drive full-time 4x4 system
  • 19-inch Silver Alloy wheels with all-season tires
  • Dual-pane panoramic sunroof for ultimate open-air freedom
  • Uconnect 4 with a 7-inch touchscreen includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Exterior details include a Tiki Bob hood decal; interior details include premium black cloth seats with an embroidered Islander logo and Surf Blue accent stitching
  • Keyless Entry with panic alarm
  • Remote start system
  • Available Alpine White painted roof

The Jeep Renegade Islander is available in Bikini, Jetset Blue, Glacier and Omaha Orange paint jobs.

The two models serve up a unique look.Photo courtesy of Stellantis

All 2021 Jeep vehicles get the Jeep Wave premium owner loyalty program with purchase. It gives access to benefits and exclusive perks like three years of worry-free maintenance at Jeep dealerships, including oil changes and tire rotations; 24/7 support via phone or chat; 24/7 roadside assistance and first-day loaner coverage; access to select Jeep events.

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Islander has a starting U.S. MSRP of $33,370 for two-door models and $36,870 for four-door models (all prices exclude $1,495 destination). The starting price for the 2021 Jeep Renegade Islander is $27,430.

Trending News

 
 

San Jose Hotel engineering manager Rocky Ontiveros, 60, wears a Texas mask on March 3, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott announced a new executive order that will end the statewide mask mandate and allow businesses to reopen at 100 percent capacity on March 10, 2021.

Photo by Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

Reporting by Automotive News indicates that despite Texas Governor Greg Abbott's executive order lifting the mask mandate statewide and allowing businesses to begin operating at 100-percent capacity again, automakers aren't changing their tune.

This executive order rescinds most of the Governor's earlier executive orders related to COVID-19. The original orders were put in place as a response to rising COVID-19 cases, and related hospitalizations and deaths, in 2020.

The new order removes state regulations and allows private businesses and individuals to decide on their mask wearing protocol and habits. There are currently mask mandates in 35 states and the District of Columbia.

There are fallbacks in place. A release from the Governor's office states, "If COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas get above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in that region for seven straight days, a County Judge in that region may use COVID-19 mitigation strategies. However, County Judges may not impose jail time for not following COVID-19 orders nor may any penalties be imposed for failing to wear a face mask. If restrictions are imposed at a County level, those restrictions may not include reducing capacity to less than 50% for any type of entity."

Toyota

Toyota, which has a factory in San Antonio, Texas told a reporter with Automotive News that they are looking into the move but don't anticipate any immediate changes to their mask-wearing protocol. Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, Inc. employs 2,542 people and makes the midsize Tacoma and full-size Tundra pickup trucks.

The automaker as has its North American headquarters in Plano, Texas, a northern suburb of Dallas. That facility employs around 4,400 people, most of whom have been working remotely for the better part of a year.

"The early read is – no change for us," said Scott Vazin, Group Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Toyota Motor North America, when approached for comment by Automotive News.

Toyota assembly plants traditionally offers tours of its facility to the general public. Due to COVID-19, plant tours have been suspended at all Toyota manufacturing facilities including those in San Antonio; Jackson, Tennessee; Blue Spring, Mississippi; and Troy, Missouri.

General Motors

General Motors (GM) has a big footprint in Texas. The company employs 8,133 people in the Lone Star State and works with 297 suppliers in the state across 13 facilities. Additionally, as of 2020, there are 588 GM dealership franchises in Texas.

The company's Arlington Assembly plant is home to every new full-size SUV in GM's product lineup sold globally: the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, and the Cadillac Escalade. GM Financial is headquartered in Fort Worth and one of GM's IT Innovation Centers is located in Austin. Assembly plants get much of their power from wind energy harvested from Cactus Flats and Hidalgo wind farms.

There are GM Financial centers in San Antonio, Arlington, and Sugar Land; a customer service center in Austin; a parts distribution site in Fort Worth; GM Financial headquarters in Fort Worth; a commercial lending office and the South Central Regional Office are in Irving.

Patrick Morrissey, Director, Corporate News Relations at GM, told Automotive News, "We'll keep our COVID safety protocols in place to ensure we continue to protect our employees."

Trending News