Founder of the Chrysler Corporation and American industrial magnate, Walter P. Chrysler, started out as a machinist’s apprentice, to eventually become the General Motors vice president of operations in 1919 and owner of his own company in 1925.
In 1920 he undertook the restructuring of the Willys Overland and Maxwell auto companies. Chrysler then produced the Chrysler Six car, which set an industry standard in 1924.
The Maxwell company was restructured by 1925 and renamed the Chrysler Corporation. The company went on to produce the Chrysler Four, Series 58, which drew more than one million people to the showrooms in the first four days. Even though the company endured many financially troubled years, it managed to pull through them with thoughtful financing and careful production cuts. The Chrysler Corporation also plays a major roll in military defense by producing many of the Army's tanks and missiles, as well as other non-auto production. The corporation is now part of the Daimler-Chrysler Auto Group.
Walter P. Chrysler was destined at an early age to become a major player in the automobile industry. He was a man so fascinated with the automobile that he bought one, a Locomobile Phaeton, then precede to disassemble and reassemble the vehicle before he even learned to drive it. With that in mind, it isn't surprising that he became one of the "Godfathers" in the race for superior automotive technology.
When Chrysler was 17, he began a feverishly motivated career in the railroad industry as a machinist's apprentice. After earning his master mechanic's papers in 1899, nine years later Chrysler became the youngest man (33) ever to hold the position of superintendent of Motive Power for the Chicago Great Western Railway.
A few years later, Chrysler again became enthralled by the automobile industry and quickly become the manager of Buick Motor Car Company in Flint, Michigan. When General Motors (GM) incorporated Buick as its first automotive division in 1916, Chrysler was promoted to division president. By 1919, he was the Vice President of General Motors, retiring financially independent a year later — at the age of 45.
Chrylser Corporation is formed
In 1921, with only a year of retirement under his belt, Walter Chrysler entered the field again, being named chairman of the dwindling Maxwell Motor Car Company, Inc. It didn't take long for Chrysler to get Maxwell back on its feet. He formed a management committee and restructured the company with the development of the Chrysler Six*. Maxwell Motor Car set an industry sales record by January 1924 — sales of the Chrysler Six reached 32,000 units.
The Chrysler Corporation was incorporated in Delaware on June 6th, 1925, as a successor to Maxwell Motor Cars. Chrysler was now president of his newly formed car company.
By 1929, Chrysler had gained momentum, becoming one of the "Big Three" leading automotive manufacturers. The company endured the Great Depression of the '30s through cost-cutting measures — never cutting back on research and development. When World War II got underway, Chrysler would show the world how much "research and development" the company had really done.
World War II
When the nation became "up-in-arms" with another war, Chrysler put forth most of its resources towards the production of military defense vehicles, as well other projects. The company's mass-manufacture of the 32-ton Sherman M4 tank helped the Allies gain momentum against the unrelenting Axis powers.
Chrysler developed and produced some 18,000 tanks. By war's end, the company had also supplied the Allies with around 500,000 Dodge trucks, and more than $3.4 billion worth of military equipment.
Following the Allied victory, civilian cars and trucks were in high demand. Between 1947 and 1950, Chrysler endeavored to meet public demand by building an additional 11 plants.
The Korean War and space technology
In 1950, when hostilities erupted in Korea, Chrysler again stepped up to the plate to supply the U.S. military with various munitions and equipment, including tanks, military trucks and air raid sirens.
On November 3, 1950, Chrysler Corporation appointed K.T. Keller as its new board chairman. The company then found itself in the "race for space," signing a contract with the U.S. Army to build Jupiter Space Exploration Missiles. In 1952, Chrysler played a major role one of America's first successful space flights, which carried two chimps 350 miles above the Earth.
During the 1950s, Chrysler not only stayed involved in government contracts, but also kept the general public's attention by developing and improving such innovations as the "Hemi" V-8 engine, and four-wheel, self-energizing hydraulic disc brakes.
Troubled times for the corporation
The mid-1970s were difficult times for Chrysler Corporation. Severe inflation, gasoline shortages, high interest rates, political insecurities, and consumer uncertainty forced Chrysler into a financial downward spiral. Also, American consumers were demanding smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, and the Japanese were the first to respond.
The company needed help, and fast. Its first attempt at recovery involved restructuring from the inside. That entailed finding new management.
Lee A. Iacocca was hired as chairman in October 1975. Having 32 years of management experience with Ford Motor Company, Iacocca attempted to meet the challenge of rebuilding Chrysler's desperate operations. Iacocca reduced costs, restructured management and recruited new executives to deal with its serious financial problems.
With all of those measures accomplished, it just wasn't enough to tow the company out of the hole. Chrysler was forced to ask for help from the federal government in the form of loan guarantees. On January 7th, 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act into law. The new act provided Chrysler $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees that helped to reverse Chrysler Corporation's fortunes.
Back in the saddle
In 1983, with help from the federal government, and with the production of the newly developed minivan, Chrysler once again gained public interest. The Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager became Chrysler's most popular vehicles, and the company was well on its way back to economic health. To this day, despite ravenous domestic and international minivan competition, Chrysler has succeeded in dominating the U.S. minivan market.
In 1991, Lee Iacocca dedicated the Chrysler Technology Center, a 3.5 million square-foot mega-structure, to be the company's primary auto development and engineering site. By 1992, Chrysler had introduced or improved upon some of the highest-quality vehicles, even by today's standards. Such vehicles as the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Viper, Dodge Stratus, and Dodge Intrepid helped Chrysler to succeed.
A mighty merger
In 1998, the German automaker Daimler-Benz and Chrysler merged — the largest of its kind in history — in a $38 billion stock deal that was a high-profile example of the world economy's globalization. As of 1999, its 440,000 employees built everything from cars and trucks to Airbuses, trains and ocean liner engines.
Today, Daimler-Chrysler Corporation has the lowest production cost, highest profit-per-vehicle in all of the car and truck manufacturing industry. It is the world's fourth-largest automaker.
*America's first medium-priced, high-styled automobile.
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