The History of Chrysler Group


With the establishment of the Maxwell Motor Company in the early 1900’s the company would then team up with the Chalmers Motor Car Company to form Maxwell-Chalmers. This formation would manufacture vehicles that were based on performance and luxury but would run into several problems such as stagnant sales. While many motor companies were selling vehicles around $500 to $1000 the Chalmers Motor Car Company was selling their 30 Touring for $1500. Due to slow sales the company had to hire an individual that had a record for turning around auto manufacturing companies. In 1924 Walter Chrysler was hired by the Maxwell-Chalmers Company as he had been working to turn around the Willys Company at that point in time. Walter Chrysler began work on what would become the Chrysler Six. Mr. Chrysler would work side-by-side with the engineers that were previously employed with Studebaker to develop a vehicle that was to offer advanced engineering as well as luxury at a surprisingly reasonable price. The 1924 Chrysler Six offered innovations such as four-wheel hydraulic brakes as well as a 6-cylinder engine that at the time was offering innovations such as aluminum pistons as well as interchangeable bearings. The 6-cylinder would produce enough power to get the Chrysler 6 up to an impressive speed of 70 mph. The top speed of the vehicle was rarely tested as the American road infrastructure was in most cases unable to provide a safe enough roadway for travelers to reach such a speed. In 1925 the Chrysler Group would in total sell over 135,000 vehicles making the company a powerful player in the American auto industry.

Chrysler would go onto build reliable engines by utilizing a flat-head design that would be tested for 50 hours at full throttle in order to prove its reliability. The company would be continuing to grow at a rapid pace therefore making room for the company to expand its vehicles by adding the Plymouth, DeSoto, as well as the purchasing the Dodge brothers company.  Chrysler also wanted a luxury line that would compete against the General Motors Cadillac brand and Ford’s Lincoln nameplate. To answer the call for a luxury line, Chrysler introduced Imperial which would be line of vehicles that offered V-8 engines and automatic transmission as well as more luxurious refinements in the cabin. The Imperial line was to be redesigned every two to three years and would receive many of its components from other Chrysler vehicles. The power of the V-8 was to produce 125 hp and was said to offer Duesenberg power and refinement as a price of just over $3000 dollars which at the time would be about a third of the price of a Duesenberg. Chrysler would go on to become known as the engineering company of Detroit and would soon see its first major public relations nightmare.

During the Second World War, Chrysler retooled its factories in order to produce several different items to help the war effort. These items included guns, trucks, tanks, ammunition, and a joint production of the Jeep. After the war had ended the engineers at Chrysler began work on engine designs and technology thus designing a hemispherical cylinder head design that would run at a higher rate of compression and offer more power than previous engines. The hemispherical-head design or commonly known today as the HEMI is still being used in current model Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram trucks.

The late 50’s and 60’s was a time where Chrysler started working on more sleek designs and would incorporate tailfins that would reflect the jet age. We would also see further improvements with the HEMI engine that would be used in several Chrysler Group vehicles thus causing a muscle car battle for horsepower supremacy. Through the 70’s, Chrysler would make design decisions that would prove to be nearly fatal for the company. The company invested heavily in manufacturing large vehicles that would end up causing a pitfall in sales as the oil crisis would cause public interest to turn to more fuel efficiency. To answer the call for smaller vehicles the company would introduce the Cordoba that would sell well for the company yet prove to be not enough to keep the company from falling into debt.

In 1980 Chrysler received a government bailout that would allow the company to retool and start manufacturing many more economical vehicles that would lead to a massive rise in sales for the company in the years to follow. In 1983 we would see the company introduce the minivan that would become a huge success for the company and create a niche in the automotive market. Showing profits and strong sales figures Daimler-Benz take interest in the company as it would offer a $36 billion takeover that would prove a hardship in the years to come. Through the 2000’s Chrysler would have its continuation of ups and downs and would be lose 16% of its staff members in a needed restructuring deal. In 2008 Chrysler was once again bailed out by the U.S. government as it received a total of 12.5 billion dollars.

Today the Chrysler group has a main owner Fiat that took ownership in 2009. Since then we have seen more efficient vehicles as well as other designs heavily influenced by Fiat coming into play for the company. We have seen the company’s sales figures hit much better than expected averages. The Chrysler Group now employees over 50,000 individuals not including vendors. And Fiat has a total of a 58.5% ownership of the company as the United Auto Workers owns 41.5%. The Chrysler Group now oversees several divisions such as Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Mopar, Ram and SRT. The company is still standing by its engineering mantra as it looks to introduce several new models in the years to come that will offer innovation as well as efficiency.

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