The Chrysler brand was officially launched in 1925, one year after namesake Walter P. Chrysler launched a vehicle bearing his name for the dying Maxwell-Chalmers company. The new company, created out of the ashes of Maxwell, set in motion a brand that has seen its ups and downs over the ensuing decades. Today, Chrysler is part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and has been recast as a mainstream brand.
By the late 1920s, the foundation of the modern Chrysler Corporation was formed. The Chrysler brand was cast as the premium marque, followed by DeSoto and Plymouth. In 1928, the corporation purchased Dodge.
Early Chrysler models were known for innovation, by including high compression engines and carburetor air filters ahead of everyone else. From the mid-1930s until the late 1940s, Chrysler was one of the top selling brands in America. The innovation continued as the Chrysler brand offered the first one-piece curved windshields, replaceable oil filters and downdraft carburetors.
Early on, Chrysler was a design pioneer with its Airflow design. An Imperial model was introduced, marketed briefly as a separate brand, but always designed with Cadillac and Lincoln in mind. After World War II the first hemispheric-head or HEMI V8 engines appeared, giving the brand a distinct performance advantage that propelled sales. With the new engines, the first Chrysler 300 models were introduced.
Like other American manufacturers, Chrysler vehicles were upsized from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s. During that time, the company led the industry by introducing several firsts, including a push-button transmission, power steering and a torsion bar suspension.
The 1960s brought new and updated models to the Chrysler line, as the Saratoga and Windsor were dropped and the Newport added. The 1970s saw the introduction of the Chrysler Cordoba, a personal luxury coupe and the smallest model of that era. As consumer acceptance for smaller models caught on, the compact Chrysler LeBaron followed.
During the 1980s, the brand’s most important product made its debut. The Chrysler Town & Country wasn’t the first Chrysler Corporation minivan, but it raised the segment’s visibility and allowed Chrysler to acquire new customers. In the 1990s, Chrysler brought out the Concorde and 300M large sedans, as well as the midsize Cirrus sedan and Sebring coupe. That was also the decade Daimler and Chrysler merged, a relationship that was terminated within 10 years of its founding.
Throughout the early part of the new millennium, fresh products were introduced, including the small Chrysler PT Cruiser and the next generation Chrysler 300. The Sebring became the Chrysler 200 and, along with the 300 and the Town & Country, these vehicles compose the brand’s entire model line.
Until 2014, Chrysler was marketed as a premium brand to compete with Buick and defunct Mercury. With Daimler exiting Chrysler and Fiat taking over in recent years, the brand has been mainstreamed and now competes with the likes of Toyota, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Nissan, Ford, Kia, Honda, Mazda, Volkswagen and Mitsubishi.