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Happy 96th, Chrysler

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Recently, Chrysler has whittled down its flagship lineup to only four cars - the Pacifica and Pacifica Hybrid, the 300, and the Voyager minivan. This is a small catalog when compared to the company’s previous offerings, but Chrysler vehicles also fall under a very wide umbrella, including the Dodge, Jeep, and Ram pickup brands. By diversifying each brand into its own unique ecosystem and working , the company has adapted and stayed afloat despite the volatile car market and several major reorganizations over the years.

Found on June 6, 1925 by Walter Chrysler, the Chrysler Corporation began as a takeover and restructuring of Maxwell motors in 1923. W. Chrysler took over Maxwell-Chalmers after his success at revitalizing Willys and kick-starting and expanding production of the original Jeep. His first creation was the Chrysler Six, a six-cylinder coach that revolutionized the automotive industry with the first four-wheel hydraulic braking system. The car was so successful that Chrysler completely dropped the Maxwell brand in 1925 and Chrysler Corporation was a unique entity.

In 1928, Chrysler founded Plymouth as their introductory line of vehicles, and then later that year bought Dodge Brothers to round out their renowned three-tiered lineup. For a time, there was also the DeSoto line and the bespoke Imperial that was considered the top-end Chrysler. It was that Imperial brand that was equipped with the world’s first in-car all-transistor radio in 1956. Then, in 1957, the DeSoto lineup introduced the first electronic fuel injection (EFI) system to the market, narrowly edging out American Motors failed attempt at doing the same.

During the 1970s, because of the oil crisis and some major quality control issues, Chrysler was in danger of going under. In one of the most famous moves in automotive history, Lee Iacocca was brought on to lead the near-failing brand, and through the Loan Guarantee Act, he was able to flood the company with cash to revolutionize advancements in manufacturing, rust-proofing, and quality control. He also acquired the Jeep brand in one of the company’s boldest and most important moves.

Yesterday was Chrysler’s 96th birthday, and the company shows no signs of stopping as it rolls into its centennial years. Jeep is as popular as ever, the Dodge Charger and Challenger are keeping American sedans and sports cars at the forefront, and Ram trucks are now under their own roof and thriving. Through constant innovation and a focus on performance, intelligent and focused brand management and marketing, and lean production practices, Chrysler should maintain a strong presence in the industry for years to come.

-Trey Fennell

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