The Dodge brothers initially worked with Ransom E. Olds and Henry P. Ford, using their skills to advance the fledgling industry as well as to hone their craft. The money the brothers earned working for Ford enabled them to set out on their own, launching the company that bore their name in 1914.
The first Dodges cost nearly twice as much as the popular Ford Model T, but were innovative and outfitted with 12-volt electrical systems and the first all-steel bodies. Dodges were also equipped with an electrical starter, which made it far easier and safer to engage the ignition.
Following the brothers' deaths, Dodge operated independently until their widows sold the company to Walter P. Chrysler in 1928. Before that, the company expanded its product line, built its first trucks and took over the Graham Brothers company.
Initially, Dodge products under Chrysler were unique, but gradually Dodge assumed Chrysler engines and the separately managed company was renamed the Dodge Division in 1935. Leading up to World War II, Dodge continued to build a series of coupes, convertibles and sedans.
After the war, a collection of new models was released, including the Hemi-powered Coronet. The Dodge Royal and Lancer also debuted, and were followed in 1960 by the Dodge Dart, an all-new entry-level model.
In 1966, Dodge jumped into the pony car fray with the Dodge Charger, a model that was longer and heavier than the Ford Mustang and based on the Coronet's chassis. It was joined in 1970 by the Dodge Challenger, a sport coupe that was built for five years than resurrected nearly four decades later.
The 1970s and 1980s had Dodge actively downsizing their vehicles and working with its Japanese partner, Mitsubishi, to supply product. Indeed, the subcompact Dodge Colt was imported from Japan, while the compact Dodge Omni was built stateside, but relied on Volkswagen engines initially.
Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and much of the 2000s, Dodge products were badge engineered twins to Plymouth or Chrysler brand models, and included the Dodge Aries K. But there were some distinctions too, including the Dodge Viper, which was introduced in 1992 as a competitor for the Chevrolet Corvette. The Dodge Ram truck line was also unique and a midsize Dodge Dakota pickup truck was also available.
In more recent years, Dodge has become Fiat Chrysler's performance brand with the Dodge Charger sedan and Challenger coupe, including supercharged Hellcat models leading the way. Two utility vehicles, Durango and Journey, and the compact Dart round out the model line.
Dodge remains a mainstream brand, despite the emphasis on performance. Top competitors include Chevrolet and Ford, as well as Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda and Mitsubishi. Ram trucks are now sold separately; Jeep might be considered for SUVs and the Chrysler brand for its midsize 200 sedan.