CHRYSLER: The Evolution of Detroit Automaker

Jun
18

The Chrysler Corporation has gone through a lot of changes since its founding in 1925. The company struggled through the Great Depression of the 1930s, World War Two, several recessions, a few oil crises and the constant scramble for to furnish new designs to a fickle public. All carmakers have had to face the same nagging problems but not all of them made it through as successfully as Chrysler.

The list of hopeful carmakers that bit the dust goes into the hundreds. Most of us haven’t even heard of most of them. Some lasted up to ten to fifteen years, while most only survived a few months to a year. Chrysler could have been one of those short-lived automakers, but Walter Chrysler had vision, confidence and know-how. He took a failing company, the Maxwell Motor Company and turned it around and put his name on it. From then on, it seemed like it couldn’t fail.

After maintaining second place in car sales in the U.S. for many years, Chrysler did hit some hard times, just like every other car manufacturer. The early seventies hit everyone pretty hard with an oil crisis. That forced the Big Three, (GM, Ford and Chrysler), to take a really close look at what they were doing and what the public wanted to buy. Since gas prices went through the roof, people just didn’t want, or rather couldn’t afford, the big gas-guzzlers any longer. The lack of enthusiasm for big cars moved Chrysler to the point of considering bankruptcy. Chrysler went back to the drawing board and came up with more fuel-efficient cars. They also went out and bought an existing brand of cars: American Motors Corporation. This new purchase brought with it the Jeep brand, which moved Chrysler into profitability.

Chrysler merged with Daimler-Benz, the makers of Mercedes-Benz, in 1988. The company changed its name to DaimlerChrysler. This marriage apparently didn’t work out very smoothly for either party and Chrysler was sold to an investment group called Cerberus Capital Management. The name changed again to Chrysler LLC in 2007. The economic slowdown in the country in 2008 to 2010 hit Chrysler hard and the government loaned the company billions of dollars to help them stay open. Chrysler came out of the bankruptcy proceedings with four new owners, the U.S. government, the Canadian government, Fiat and the United Auto Workers pension fund.

Ultimately, Fiat gained majority control over Chrysler and the corporation is doing just fine. In fact, from 2010 through 2012, Chrysler’s sales has had a continuous upswing in sales and sold over a million and a half vehicles in 2012.


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