The Chrysler brand is a vehicle division of the Chrysler group, which has a long and sometimes rocky history. The brand currently targets customers seeking for affordable luxury.
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Walter P. Chrysler was a railroad tycoon who worked at Buick and Willys-Overland before establishing his own car company in 1925. A year prior, he developed his first car, the 1924 Chrysler Six, which featured a six-cylinder engine as well as four-wheel hydraulic brakes, an industry first.
The Imperial was launched the following year to compete with Cadillac and Lincoln with various body styles, including two- or four-seat roadsters, a four-person coupe, five-passenger sedan and ever larger limousine models. It remained the brand’s flagship vehicle for much of its history.
Chrysler continued its innovation of the automobile in the ‘30s with the streamlined Airflow, Airstream, the Royal, the New Yorker and the Saratoga, many of which were powered by 8-cylinder engines. The Windsor sedan and the limited-run Newport were launched in 1940, while the Town & Country appeared in 1941, initially as a wood-paneled station wagon.
In 1951, Chrysler introduced its first V8 engine featuring a hemispherical combustion chamber design. The 1950's saw Chrysler develop its 300 “letter series”. Padded dashboards, the push-button transmission and power steering were also introduced in the decade.
Over the years, Chrysler’s R&D developed a turbine engine, which equipped the experimental 1963 Turbine Car. Only 55 were produced, and the project was eventually abandoned.
The mid-1970s saw the introduction of more V8-powered rear-wheel drive cars like the Cordoba coupe and mid-size LeBaron in coupe, sedan and wagon formats. The oil and energy crises had hit the automotive industry hard, but Lee Iacocca's arrival in 1978 ensured Chrysler's survival. The first result of his work was the short-lived Imperial coupe, produced from 1981 to 1983, which featured a digital instrument panel.
Meanwhile, in 1982, the front-wheel drive K-car platform was introduced to compete with the more fuel-efficient Japanese manufacturers; many of Chrysler's were spawned off it, such as the LeBaron and LeBaron GTS, the E-Class, the Town & Country wagon, the New Yorker, the Laser coupe and the Canada-only Daytona coupe. The K platform was the basis for the S platform used under Chrysler’s minivans, launched in 1984. The division would eventually get its own in 1990 as the Town & Country.
Iacocca, the K-car and the modern minivan had saved Chrysler from bankruptcy. So well, in fact, that the company actually owned Italian supercar maker Lamborghini from 1987 to 1993. Chrysler even collaborated with Maserati to produce what was called Chrysler’s TC by Maserati, a short-lived failure.
The '90s saw a robust Chrysler produce a host of vehicles. The Sebring replaced the LeBaron coupe and convertible, the Cirrus replaced the LeBaron sedan and the Concorde replaced the Fifth Avenue. The Imperial name was back in the line-up briefly, but was replaced by the LHS. By the end of the decade, the 300M was introduced in replacement of the New Yorker.
From 2000 to 2002, a Chrysler-badged version of the Dodge Neon was offered in Canada, while the successful, retro-styled PT Cruiser was introduced in 2001. That same year, the Sebring sedan replaced the Cirrus, while the 300 sedan replaced the Concorde in 2005. Models that came and went during the decade include the Prowler roadster, the Crossfire coupe and convertible with a Mercedes-Benz powertrain, the Pacifica which was arguably the first crossover in North America as well as the full-size Aspen SUV which briefly offered a hybrid powertrain.
Meanwhile, the Chrysler group merged with Daimler in 1998 to become DaimlerChrysler. The company then sold Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management in 2007, which became Chrysler LLC, and after declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, was bought out by Italian automaker Fiat.
The current Chrysler division line-up consists of the mid-size 200 sedan and 200 convertible, the full-size 300 sedan and the Town & Country minivan.
Mission accomplished for Chrysler, who successfully transformed the lacklustre Sebring sedan into the more competitive 200. Sales have doubled in 2012 compared to the previous year, and when you add the sales numbers of the very similar Dodge Avenger, Chrysler sells more midsize sedans in Canada than any other automaker, beating out the Toyota Camry, the Ford Fusion and the Hyundai Sonata.
Way back in 1984, the Chrysler minivan was born as an efficient and family-friendly box on wheels. Five generations later it has evolved into... Well, consider this picture of our family (and one cousin) on a recent vacation, travelling in a 2012 Chrysler Town & Country Limited.
Pricey, European posh-sedans take note: Chrysler's now created a worthy low-buck competitor in the market for four-wheeled statements of success.
This upscale version of the Dodge Grand Caravan has a total of four doors of which two are of the sliding variety. The chrome grille proudly displays the iconic Chrysler logo. Numerous styling touches such as rear LED tail lights, body-coloured rear spoiler and a number of chrome accents contribute to the overall refined styling.
This elegantly hunkered-down sedan, with its chrome grille, high beltline, and lowered roof is a definite head turner.
Minivan production at the Chrysler assembly plant in Windsor, Ontario, has been reduced to three 4-hour shifts this week.