Automobile manufacturing company Daimler-Chrysler was founded as the Chrysler Corporation in 1925 by Walter P. Chrysler. The company’s first car model was the Chrysler 6, which was priced at $1,565 and featured an innovative six-cylinder engine and four-wheel hydraulic brakes. In 1928, lower-priced vehicles were sold under the Plymouth brand and featured four-cylinder models.
In the 1930s, Chrysler introduced one-piece windshields and replaceable oil filters, and it purchased the Dodge Brothers company to add the Dodge brand to its lineup of cars. The government approached the auto manufacturer’s engineers in the 1940s with several defense-related projects for World War II. In addition to military vehicles, these engineers helped develop radar antennas, the short-range ballistic missile named PGM-11 Redstone and boosters for the Saturn space vehicles.
Chrysler experienced financial troubles in the 1970s when U.S. consumer focus shifted to more gas-efficient vehicles and gas prices were soaring. Traditionally, the company had manufactured large vehicles that were not focused on fuel economy. It lagged behind the two other U.S. automakers, GM and Ford in sales. The cost of complying with new government regulations was factored into the price of each new vehicle and made it difficult for the already struggling automaker to price their vehicles competitively.
The compact Dodge Dart and Plymouth Valiant were released in 1973 to modest sales, but the bulk of Chrysler’s inventory was still made up of low gas mileage vehicles. In order to attempt to improve sales, the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volaré were rushed onto the market in 1976 only to be plagued with mechanical issues and recalls. The public’s confidence in the automaker plummeted, and the company was spending millions on warranty costs to repair faulty design in the vehicles.
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By 1978, the company lost millions a year. It momentarily recovered under the leadership of ex-Ford executive Lee Iacocca. To combat the influx of Japanese imports, Iacocca released his book, Talking Straight, which attempted to instill pride in American-made products. Iacocca also asked for a government loan in the amount of $1.5 billion to avoid bankruptcy. President Jimmy Carter signed the Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979 in 1980 under pressure from factory workers and car dealers.
With the money received from the government, the auto maker produced the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant in 1981. It released the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager in 1983. These two models would lead industry sales for the next 25 years. The company paid back the government loan in the same year. It also sold Chrysler Defense to General Dynamics for $348.5 million.
However, faulty production still haunted the company when it was discovered in 1987 that approximately 32,750 cars had disconnected odometers and were test-driven with as much as 500 miles before being shipped to dealers. Iacocca called the action “dumb” and “unforgivable.” The company settled out of court. In the same year, it acquired American Motors Corporation (AMC) for its Jeep brand.
Chrysler became Daimler-Chrysler Motors Company in 1998 when the company formed a partnership with Germany’s Daimler-Benz. However, after a decade of financial losses, Daimler announced it was selling its shares in American company. In 2007, Cerberus Capital Management bought 80.1 percent of Daimler’s stake in Chrysler for $7.4 billion. The company was renamed Chrysler Holding LLC and split into two subsidiaries, Chrysler Motors LLC and Chrysler Financial Services LLC.
The company was unable to financially recover from a decade of loses, and in 2009 it filed for bankruptcy along with fellow auto giant GM. The United States government agreed to provide $6 billion if the company partnered with Fiat. It emerged from bankruptcy within months. Today, Chrysler’s brands include Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep.
However, Chrysler still has lingering financial troubles in the form of asbestos lawsuits. Since the 1980s, the automaker has contended with a high number of claims because it manufactured, used and sold automobile parts containing asbestos. Thousands of plaintiffs suffering from asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma have come forward naming Chrysler as a defendant.
Matt Mauney is an award-winning journalist with nearly a decade of professional writing experience. He joined Asbestos.com in 2016, and he spends much of his time reading, analyzing and reporting on mesothelioma research articles to ensure people in the mesothelioma community know the latest medical advancements. Prior to joining Asbestos.com, Matt was a reporter at the Orlando Sentinel. Matt also edits some of the pages on the website. He also holds a certificate in health writing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read More